Beta-blockers are any class of drugs that prevent the stimulation of the adrenergic receptors responsible for increased cardiac response. Beta-blockers control rhythm, angina, and can reduce high blood pressure. By blocking adrenaline, beta-blockers promote lowered anxiety and stress which removes stress from the body. One of the beta-blockers that is specially used to treat essential tremor is propranolol (Inderal), and has been used to treat essential tremor for more than 40 years. Other drugs like Lopressor may also be effective depending on the case and the person.
It is not clear how Inderal actually reduces the tremors, but it probably is because it blocks nerve impulses to the muscles and helps relax them. Since essential tremor is a kinetic tremor, it is stimulated and symptoms generally worsen with movement and anxiety. Anything that can relax those things will typically help relax essential tremor symptoms as well. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of people taking beta-blockers have some sort of improvement in their tremors and symptoms.
Due to the nature of beta-blockers, there are side effects that may make them a bad choice depending on other conditions and health concerns. These side effects include slowing heart rate, drops in blood pressure, fainting, apathy, fatigue, erectile dysfunction and depression. Conditions such as asthma, heart arrhythmias, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes and pregnancy may also affect eligibility to take the drug. Make sure that your doctor knows about all these things before you start beta-blockers, and if you experience any symptoms like the ones listed above, that you contact your doctor for advice.
While you are taking beta-blockers, your doctor will monitor general things like your heart rate and your blood pressure. This type of drug usually lasts over a long period of time to help with suppressing tremors, but about 10 percent of people that take beta-blockers will develop a tolerance to the drug after about a year. Those 10 percent of people experience a drop in effectiveness, and another medication or treatment may be prescribed at that point.
Patients that are started on one of these beta-blocker medications are introduced at a low dose. After the low dose, it is slowly increased until complete response or maximum dose is accomplished. There is a point that essential tremor reaches where it no longer responds to medication, and at that point treatments like ultrasounds and deep brain stimulation are considered. A certain type of MRI can deaden the tiny area in the brain that is known to be involved in essential tremor, which can lessen symptoms especially in the hand area.
Because the cause of essential tremor is unknown, treatment is not guaranteed to be effective for all patients. It really is a case by case basis for treatment, and even though there are recommended paths of attempts, there are cases that may never be able to be treated efficiently. Contact your medical provider to determine what is right for you. Besides Beta-blockers, there are lots of natural and home-care type methods to try that may be of benefit.