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Living with Essential Tremor: Essential Facts

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Over the last decade, we’ve learned more about neurological conditions and how they affect the human body. And while some of these diseases are more familiar than others, likely, many haven’t heard about essential tremor. Although millions of people have been diagnosed with this condition, there’s not much media coverage as there is for Parkinson’s disease, for example, which benefits from celebrity spokespersons.

Essential tremor: An overview

What is essential tremor? It’s a neurological condition that results in the involuntary trembling of the head, voice, hands, and tongue. The disease is progressive and will get worse over time. Although not fatal, the symptoms can become debilitating. And a person with a mild case of essential tremor will still feel frustrated and embarrassed by the constant trembling.

According to experts, the condition occurs because of abnormal communication between certain parts of the nervous system. It’s also often hereditary, with some cases where a known sufferer cannot identify a relative who may have suffered from similar symptoms.

The condition does worsen with age. The symptoms also become more prominent when a person is anxious or active. There are instances when a person with essential tremor will avoid social interactions to avoid embarrassment and anxiety, which worsens the condition.

How bad is essential tremor?

For many years, ET was considered as a  ‘benign’ condition. People who suffer from the disease often don’t speak out about it. Yes, you’ll be able to live a normal life with minor discomfort if the symptoms aren’t severe. But, as you get older, it may become more challenging to manage. Experts agree that the only way to get help is to come forward about your symptoms and receive a proper diagnosis.

Even if ET isn’t fatal, thinking that you can live with the symptoms and get used to it is not a productive idea. What’s most important with neurological diseases is to discuss your symptoms with a qualified physician who can help you understand how to manage, or potentially treat the disease.  

Available medications and ongoing research

Today, there’s no known cure for ET. Most medications prescribed to patients lead to varying results. Doctors usually prescribe a combination of beta-blockers as well as anti-anxiety medicine. If ineffective, most people typically find creative ways to cope with the symptoms of the condition.

In addition to medications, there are also several forms of therapies available to manage ET symptoms. Some of the methods are still in experimental stages, while others have been around for a while. Even brain surgery is a treatment option and shows great promise.  

There are ongoing studies focused on identifying the gene that mutates and causes ET. Currently, there is interest in continuing these studies. The problem is making sure to sustain the interest and gather enough funding. Otherwise, the efforts will shift to other conditions that are fatal and affect a more significant part of the population.

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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