Pay attention to those tremors in your body

Tuesday , June 24, 2014 - 7:19 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

If you're shaking and the reason isn't stage fright, something more serious could be going on inside your body.

Shaking, or tremors, are an involuntary body movement, typically composed of rapid and regular bursts of muscle activity which often involves one or more limbs or can involve muscle of the neck and voice, said neurology and sleep medicine physician, Dr. Chris Hammond.

"More often neurological disease of many types can lead to tremor, such as Parkinson’s disease, Essential tremor, dementia, stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, and others," Hammond said. "However, many tremors can be physiological, which means activity can be a complication of medications, caffeine in excess for example (energy drinks), electrolyte imbalance, stress, and muscle fatigue. And related nerve and muscle problems can lead to similar types of tremor."

Characteristics of a tremor can consist of a rhythmic shaking in the hands, arms, head, legs, or trunk, difficulty writing or drawing, a shaky voice and problems holding and controlling utensils and cups.

Hammond spoke about the various types of tremors during this year's Ogden Medical Surgical Society Conference. He said a person can develop a tremor at any time during their life. Neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's tends to develop around the age of 60 to70. Others, such as inherited tremors, can start at any age but tend to unmask this tendency at 30 to 40 years old.

"It is good to know what is causing the tremor. There are benign tremors and those that are not so benign such as malignancies," Hammond said. "In most cases, if tremor is experienced nearly equally well in both arms upon movement, it likely is a benign form of tremor such as physiological or essential type of tremor."

And in most cases, Hammond said, a physician can tell a person if this an inherited type of tremor, due to medication, or something for concerning. If the tremor is not obviously associated with caffeine consumption, skipping meals, and other known triggers, Hammond said it important to see a physician to ensure nothing more serious is at hand, even if symptoms are mild and not requiring medications to suppress the tremor.

Depending on the type, many tremors can be reduced in intensity, Hammond said. For example, familial tremor, also known as Essential Tremor can be treated with several medications that assist with neurochemical regulation such as blood pressure and seizure medications. These medications, in general, reduce neuro-output, hence leading to less intense tremor.

"Treating Parkinson’s disease type of tremor, which is a neurodegenerative disease leading to deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine, is often approached through increasing dopamine availability in the brain or activating dopamine receptors by various medications," he said. "Nothing available is curative but can manage symptoms to some degree."

Physiological tremors can be potentially avoided, essentially by avoiding certain chemicals that are leading to the tremor such as caffeine and certain medications, physical overexertion, and hypoglycemia," Hammond said. Sleep deprivation may also aggravate this and other types of tremors.

"Getting a good night’s sleep can help many neurological issues," he said.

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