Treatment for Essential Tremor Using the Gamma Knife

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) now offers the Gamma Knife, a noninvasive treatment for essential tremor.

What Is Essential Tremor?

Tremor is an unintentional, somewhat rhythmic, muscle movement involving to-and-fro movements (oscillations) of one or more parts of the body. Essential tremor (sometimes called benign essential tremor) is the most common of the more than 20 types of tremor.

Although it may be mild and nonprogressive in some people, in others the tremor is slowly progressive, starting on one side of the body but eventually affecting both sides. Hand tremor is most common but the head, arms, voice, tongue, legs and trunk may also be involved. Hand tremor may cause problems with purposeful movements such as eating, writing, sewing or shaving. Head tremor may be seen as a "yes-yes" or "no-no" motion. Essential tremor may be accompanied by mild gait disturbance. Heightened emotion, stress, fever, physical exhaustion or low blood sugar may trigger tremors or increase their severity.

Onset is most common after age 40, although symptoms can appear at any age. Children of a parent who has essential tremor have up to a 50 percent chance of inheriting the condition.

Essential tremor is not associated with any known pathology.

Essential Tremor Treatment

There is no definitive cure for essential tremor. Symptomatic drug therapy may include propranolol or other beta blockers and primidone, an anticonvulsant drug. Eliminating tremor "triggers" such as caffeine and other stimulants from the diet may be recommended. Physical therapy may help to reduce tremor and improve coordination and muscle control for some patients. RWJUH offers innovative treatment for essential tremor using the Gamma Knife, as well as deep brain stimulation.

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