Essential Tremor vs. Parkinson's

July 27, 2018

Though essential tremor and Parkinson’s have similar symptoms, they are two different conditions. Both conditions cause tremors and may seem to go hand in hand, but they are onset at different times and because of different reasons. 

Essential tremor is a kinetic, familial tremor that is passed on by genetics. If a parent has essential tremor, than a child has a 50 percent chance of getting the condition. Essential tremor most likely causes rhythmic tremors in the hands, arms, upper body, head, and vocal cords. Essential tremor can be onset at any age, and progresses at different rates depending on age of onset. Essential tremor tends to not affect anything but tremors, while Parkinson’s has many other side effects. Though essential tremor has been linked to sleep disorders and other cognitive interruptions, essential tremor has not been proven to cause any of those things, or even be related. 

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, which generally includes tremors. Like essential tremor, it cannot be cured, but treatment does provide support and relief of some symptoms. Parkinson’s is caused by nerve cell damage in the brain which causes dopamine levels to drop, leading to the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s tends to affect older individuals, over the age of 40 but even more commonly over the age of 60 years old. Parkinson’s symptoms include tremors at rest, which are different than kinetic tremors and only affect patients when they are not moving. The tremors are described as pill rolling tremors in the hands. Other forms are possible, but these are the most common, making it stand apart from essential tremor. Symptoms also include Bradykinesia, limb rigidity, and gait and balance problems. 

Though Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, the disease complications can be very serious. It is totally possible to live a full life with Parkinson’s, with medical attention and help it can be possible to be independent and mostly do things on your own as well. 

Progression of Parkinson’s disease tends to be very slow and variable, just like essential tremor. There are scales for Parkinson’s disease to gauge the progress over the years. The scal started in 1967 and included stages zero through five. The scale has since become a bit more complex, but the idea of measurement remains the same. 

Though Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor share tremors as common denominators, the two conditions are very different and really not related to one another. Parkinson’s is a more neurologically based disease than essential tremor, and is onset usually due to age and neurological damage as opposed to genetic factors at a young age like essential tremor. Parkinson’s disease also has a number of other effects in the movement of those with Parkinson’s, and is not just characterized by tremors alone like essential tremor. If you are wondering if you have Parkinson’s or essential tremor, it is important to let a medical practitioner diagnose you, as side effects may seem similar on the surface.