Those with essential tremor (ET) often struggle in many everyday activities, like eating and grabbing books off the shelf. Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s movement, causing a rhythmic, involuntary shaking in the head, arms, and voice. Treatments for essential tremor include adjustments in diet and exercise, assistive devices, medications, and surgical procedures. In this article, we’re going to discuss the medication treatments, which includes beta blockers for essential tremor.
What are beta blockers for essential tremor?
Beta blockers let those with the ET movement disorder control their affected parts and reduce their tremors. Generally, physicians use beta blockers as a long-term tremor suppression treatment in younger patients.
The most common beta blockers for essential tremor include propranolol, metoprolol, benzodiazepines, primidone, topiramate, gabapentin, and anti-seizure medications.
How do beta blockers help essential tremor?
Beta-adrenergic blockers are drugs that prevent the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine from adhering to beta receptors, blocking the effects of adrenaline.
There are three classes or types of beta receptors are beta 1, beta 2, and beta 3:
- Beta 1 receptors are located in the heart and kidneys.
- Beta 2 receptors are in the muscles, intestinal tract, and various internal organs like the liver and uterus.
- Beta 3 receptors are located in the fat cells.
Beta blockers like propranolol block nerve impulses from reaching the muscles triggered during tremors. Research shows that beta blockers allow patients to experience up to 70 percent tremor reduction.
Propranolol for essential tremors
Propranolol is the only drug cleared by the FDA to treat essential tremor. According to clinical studies and ET statistics, this drug has been shown to reduce tremors by roughly 50 percent. However, approximately 66 percent of patients suffer adverse side effects from propranolol, including shortness of breath. For this reason, physicians do not recommend propranolol to patients with respiratory disorders like asthma.
Metoprolol for tremors
Another drug used to treat essential tremors is metoprolol, which is an alternative option for asthmatic patients who cannot take propranolol. In a double-blind, controlled study, Metoprolol showed similar efficacy in reducing tremor as propranolol.
Primidone for essential tremors
In scenarios where propranolol isn’t effective or acceptable for essential tremor patients, physicians often turn to primidone. Primidone (Mysoline) is an anti-seizure drug that offers comparable efficacy as propranolol, and is often introduced in the smallest possible dose and gradually increased to mitigate side effects. Side effects of primidone include sedation, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, ataxia, vertigo, and acute toxic reaction.
Patients taking primidone undergo blood count tests before and regularly throughout the treatment period. This blood count is helpful in detecting red cell hypoplasia, aplasia, agranulocytosis, and anemia, which can occur as side effects in rare instances.
Side effects of beta blockers for essential tremor
When treating essential tremor with drug treatments, it’s important to note that beta blockers may not be effective for all patients. Possible side effects of beta blockers include a decreased heart rate, blood pressure drops, fainting, apathetic mood, fatigue, and depression. If you notice any of these side effects, consult with your physician, so they can suggest an alternative tremor treatment.
Can beta blockers cause weight gain?
Weight gain is a possible side effect of some beta blocking drugs, usually older ones like atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor and Toprol-XL). Weight gain typically occurs within the first months of treatment and gradually tapers off.
Can beta blockers help with heart problems?
In many patients with a history of heart failure, beta blockers have been shown to reduce mortality and improve the symptoms. Beta blockers are contraindicated in people with heart blockage, asthma, or reactive airway disease. However, beta blockers can be used under a physician’s direction in heart failure patients with COPD, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Choose the Tremelo for drug-free essential tremor treatment
Tremors from essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease affect thousands of people all over the United States. Our Tremelo device allows essential tremor patients to reduce their shakiness and tremors by up to 90 percent. Contact us today to learn more or buy the Tremelo device online.