Tremor is a disorder of neurology and more specifically in the area of Parkinson disease and other movement disorders. Tremor refers to an involuntary movement consisting of rhythmic alternating movements around one or more joints. It can occur in many body areas and has many causes. A complete medical and neurological evaluation helps to identify the cause of tremor in an individual patient. Treatment can vary widely depending on the cause or individual factors.
The more common causes of tremor evaluated by our movement disorders team include:
- Parkinson disease: Tremor is often a part of Parkinson disease, particularly when it occurs when the body part is fully at rest. But some Parkinson disease patients do not have tremor.
- Enhanced physiologic tremor: Physiologic tremor may be considered a part of normal life. It can be enhanced when a person is exposed to caffeinated beverages or alcohol, certain prescription medications or undue levels of anxiety. This type of tremor may also relate to other medical problems, such as thyroid disease.
- Essential tremor (ET): A disorder in which tremor occurs in the outstretched arms or when performing movement with the arms. The head, voice and legs may also be involved with tremor. The disorder is frequently inherited, affecting several family members. Tremor symptoms may improve transiently with relatively low doses of alcoholic beverages.
- Cerebellar tremor: A type of tremor seen resulting from stroke, head injury, certain brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, or an inherited condition. This type of tremor may occur at rest, is worse with use of the affected body part, and is associated with impaired coordination. The cause usually relates to dysfunction in a specific area of the brain called the cerebellum.
At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, our faculty have the expertise to distinguish between the different types of tremor. The best treatment depends first on discovering the cause. For example, Parkinson tremor usually improves with dopamine-related drugs. Enhanced physiologic tremor may improve with treatment of the offending medical condition or withdrawal of the culprit drug. Essential tremor may respond to a number of treatments, including propranolol, primidone and others. Cerebellar tremor can be difficult to treat.
Our faculty members work in collaboration to diagnose both simple and complex tremor disorders. Some patients with severe tremor may be successfully treated with botulinum toxin injections or surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation.
Our multidisciplinary team includes eight expert movement disorders neurologists, an adult psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, three nurses, a videographer and numerous support staff.
Our physicians are also researchers who are actively studying investigative approaches for tremors. For more information about current clinical trials, visit our Clinical Trials section.