Tremors | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine


Overview and Facts about Tremors

A tremor is a movement disorder that causes shaking or trembling. Symptoms can affect any part of the body, but they usually affect the hands and arms. Tremors are more common in older adults, although people of all ages can experience them. This movement disorder is diagnosed and treated by health care professionals in neurology.

Tremors can be a symptom of many different health problems. Common causes of tremors include Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and alcohol abuse. Healthy people can also experience tremors, although these tremors are usually benign.

Signs and Symptoms of Tremors

Tremors can affect many different body parts, including the:

  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Head
  • Face
  • Trunk
  • Legs
  • Vocal cords

Depending on your situation, your symptoms may either worsen with movement or when you're standing still. Symptoms may also be more severe on one side of your body. Tremors often begin gradually and worsen over time.

You may also notice that your symptoms become worse when tired or under stress. Temperature changes or certain medications may also aggravate your symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors of Tremors

About 50% of tremors are caused by genetic mutations. These tremors often run in families, and they're usually not harmful to your health. However, tremors can also be caused by serious health conditions, including:

These conditions often require special medical treatment. In most cases, tremors caused by these conditions will become worse over time; therefore, individuals with this condition may eventually need round-the-clock care.

Tremors can also be caused by exposure to toxic substances. Long-term alcohol abuse or drug withdrawal can also cause tremors; these kinds of tremors may improve after an appropriate detox treatment.

Tests and Diagnosis of Tremors

Doctors can typically determine the cause of tremors by performing an exam and taking a detailed patient history. Be sure to tell your doctor about any prescription medications or over-the-counter supplements you're currently taking. Your doctor may also ask whether you consume caffeine, alcohol, or illegal drugs. It’s important for your diagnosis and treatment to answer these questions truthfully.

If the cause of your tremors is still unclear, your doctor may suggest extra tests, such as blood tests, to help determine the specific medical conditions that may cause tremors.

Treatment and Care for Tremors

Depending on the cause of your tremors, your doctor may refer you to a neurologist for further tests or treatment. Not all tremors need medical care, but if your tremors are linked to a progressive disease, treatment may help slow the disease's progression.

Prescription medications may help you manage your symptoms. Your doctor may also suggest occupational therapy. This type of treatment can improve your muscle strength and coordination.

If your tremors are severe and don't respond to medication, you may need deep brain stimulation. This process uses an electrical probe to deliver electrical pulses into your brain. These pulses interrupt muscle signals that cause your tremors. Your neurologist can help you decide if this treatment is right for you.