Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease

Essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease are the two most common diagnoses for uncontrollable tremors in the arms and hands. However, you may be wondering how to tell the difference and are there any similarities. Here are some key traits of both movement disorders that can help you understand.

First, let’s define essential tremor.

Essential tremor is the tremor that occurs instantly in a person’s arm while they’re actively doing something with their arm, such as eating, drinking or writing. This is known as “action tremor.” Essential tremor also includes “positional tremor,” where the tremor occurs immediately when a person lifts and holds their arm in the air. Some people can also experience head tremor and tremulous or shaky voice, which are solely present with essential tremor and not with Parkinson’s disease. Currently, there is no known cause for essential tremor. However, it has been observed that essential tremor often runs in families and can start at any age.

Parkinson’s disease exhibits a different set of characteristics.

Unlike essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease and has a known cause. It’s caused by the loss of dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that brain cells create to allow a person to control movement and feel emotions, such as pleasure or pain. 

Since Parkinson’s disease causes the brain to lose control of movement, the most obvious symptom of the disease is tremor. In Parkinson’s disease, the tremor starts involuntarily in the arm even when the person is not moving or not doing anything. This type of tremor is called “rest tremor.” Parkinson’s disease slows and stiffens muscle movements. As the disease progresses, it can also affect a person’s ability to balance, especially while walking. 

Similar Symptoms, Different Treatments

Despite these key differences, what often makes it difficult to diagnose people with tremors is that a person with essential tremor can also develop Parkinson’s disease. Though both movement disorders affect motor abilities in the arms and hands, physicians treat them each differently. To receive the correct treatment to alleviate your tremor, make sure to speak with your neurologist, who specializes in movement disorders, to test you and provide you with the proper diagnosis. 

Now that you have a better understanding of essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, you might find an essential tremor specialist near you by visiting the link below.

We also invite you to explore our anti-tremor assistive device, Tremelo, which may help regain your independence and live enabled.

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Sreekanth Rudraraju, MSME

Chief Engineer
Sreekanth brings a strong knowledge of design and manufacturing to the team from his experience developing surveillance systems and devices for Electronics Corporation of India Limited. Originally from Hyderabad, India, Sreekanth decided to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in California, where he met Dr. Nguyen and joined his project to create a tremor-reducing device.

Dr. Leo Nguyen

CEO & President

Dr. Nguyen is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at California State University, Fresno. Vibration control and advanced system design are his specialties, and Five Microns developed out of his research on using vibration control techniques to steady a person’s arm. He finds the complexity of the human body fascinating and is passionate about improving human life through his work as an engineer. Dr. Nguyen obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toledo, Ohio after completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Oklahoma.