Essential tremor is the most common cause of tremor in adults, and has a worldwide prevalence of 1% with a prevalence of 5% in adults over age 60.
Essential tremor often runs in families, and for this reason is sometimes referred to as "familial tremor". A family history is present in 30 to 70% of patients diagnosed with essential tremor.
Essential tremor most commonly affects both arms. This is in contrast to the tremor seen in Parkinson's disease, in which onset typically begins unilaterally.
Exacerbating factors include physical and psychological stress. Maintaining antigravity postures, consuming caffeine, or experiencing significant psychosocial distress (anxiety, depression) can worsen the tremor.
Alleviating factors include rest and small amounts of alcohol consumption. It is common for a patient to say that he/she will have a drink if the tremor is particularly symptomatic.
Patients whose symptoms are severe enough to cause difficulty in daily activities may be prescribed beta blockers, which have been shown to relieve symptoms of essential tremor. The most common is propranolol.
Primidone is a barbiturate that is historically used for seizure disorders but can also be effective in essential tremor.
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