Essential Tremors are Unintentional, Rhythmic Muscle Movements

Essential tremors are a common movement disorder. The condition affects approximately one in five people over the age of 65.

The tremors are unintentional, somewhat rhythmic muscle movements. If you are experiencing tremors, especially when you are eating, drinking or writing, our team of experts at Penn State Neuroscience Institute are here to help.

Essential tremors affect areas of the brain that control movement. In many cases, the exact cause of the tremor is unknown. The condition can also be worse if you are experiencing stress or fatigue, use caffeine and take certain medications.

It’s common for people to link essential tremors to Parkinson’s disease; however, the conditions are different. If you have essential tremors, you experience tremor symptoms while using your hands. Parkinson’s disease patients experience tremor symptoms mainly when their hands are at rest.

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook

Symptoms and Diagnosis

At Penn State Neuroscience Institute, diagnosing our patients with essential tremors consists of a careful medical history, performing neurological (brain and nerve) examinations and ruling out other conditions. Lab tests are also utilized to rule out thyroid disease or medication side effects.

Neurological exams to diagnose essential tremors can include:

  • Tendon reflexes
  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle tone
  • Ability to feel certain sensations
  • Postures and coordination

There is no cure for essential tremors. For most patients, our team will recommend medications and physical measures to help you control the tremors. Your neurologist will work closely with you to determine the proper medication and the most effective dosage. Physical measures include adding weights to hands and using heavy utensils.

If your symptoms are severe, and medicine is no longer helping to control your tremors, the Penn State Health Neurosurgery team will evaluate you for surgical treatment. The most common option is deep brain stimulation, which is when a neurostimulator is implanted inside your brain to help stop the tremors.


Essential tremors are not life-threatening; however, if you have essential tremors, it can become harder to perform daily tasks, including driving or going to work. Essential tremors can become more severe over time. Our team of experts at Penn State Health are here to help you find the best treatment path to improve your quality of life.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

The experts at Penn State Neuroscience Institute are committed to providing comprehensive, cutting-edge diagnostic and treatment options for patients with essential tremors. We are also committed to furthering research and clinical trials for movement disorders. Learn more about new Penn State Health clinical trials at StudyFinder.

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The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center offers access to the only Level 4 Epilepsy Center in central Pennsylvania.

The Level 4 designation is granted by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Level 4 is the highest designation and means we offer the most complex types of epileptic diagnostic evaluations and treatment options, including intensive neurodiagnostic monitoring, as well as more extensive medical, neuropsychological and psychosocial treatment. Our Level 4 center also performs complete evaluations for epilepsy surgery, including intracranial electrodes.

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