There are an estimated 10 million people with essential tremor in the United States. Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological condition characterized by involuntary, rhythmic shaking or “tremors”. These tremors interfere with important tasks like drinking, eating, or writing legibly. Tremors are also present in those with Parkinson’s disease, a disease affecting the nervous system that is also symptomized by muscle inflexibility and slowed movement. Because tremors are a symptom of both Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, it’s often hard for people to tell the difference between the two conditions. Though Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor have a common symptom,  they are not equal.

For those with Parkinson’s disease, tremors typically occur during rest and are known as “resting tremors.” People with essential tremor mostly have tremors during times of activity. Because these tremors occur during activity or “action,” they are known as “action tremors.”

In addition to type, the tremors of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor also differ in frequency and magnitude. Tremors related to Parkinson’s disease usually occur more frequently over time and are more forceful (higher magnitude) than those related to essential tremor. Individuals with essential tremor may see a fluctuation in the frequency of their tremors throughout the day, ranging from high to low.

The location of the tremors can also help you distinguish between these two conditions. For those with Parkinson’s disease, tremors usually begin on one side of the body and gradually progress to the other side; tremors related to Parkinson’s disease only affect the hands and legs, never the head or voice. In contrast, those with essential tremor will typically have tremors present on both sides of their body from the onset of their condition; these tremors may affect the head and voice, as well as the hands and legs.

Family history is also a differentiating factor between Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. For those with Parkinsons’ disease, family history does not appear to be a contributing factor since it occurs in both individuals with and without a family history of the disease. Treatments for Parkinson’s disease differ from essential tremor in that symptoms can be improved with levodopa therapy. For those with essential tremor, treatments usually consist of primidone or propranolol.

While essential tremor is not life-threatening, it can be a cause of embarrassment or disability in performing routine tasks. At Five Microns, we are committed to improving the lives of those with essential tremor through our Tremelo device. If you or someone you know has essential tremor and would like to join our research study, click on “Join Study” at the top of our website. To learn more about investment opportunities, click on “Invest”.

Note: This article is written for informational purposes only and does not replace a proper medical diagnosis