Etiology of Essential Tremor

July 20, 2018

Etiology is defined as the cause, set of causes, or manner of causation of a disease or condition. The etiology of essential tremor is not totally known, but we can attribute some things to the onset of the condition. Essential tremor is a nervous system disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It’s not necessarily a dangerous condition, and most of the time those with essential tremor can live normal lives and perform everyday tasks. Trembling does mostly occur in the hands, so things as simple as drinking from a glass, writing, or tying shoelaces may be difficult. Depending on the severity of the tremors, assistance may be needed. 

Essential tremor is a familial tremor, and about half of all essential tremor cases appear because of some genetic mutation or abnormality. But, the specific gene that causes the tremors has not been identified. If a parent has been diagnosed with essential tremor, their child has a 50 percent chance of getting the condition as well. It is easily passed from generation to generation, and can occur to people of all ages. 

If it is not a genetic mutation that has been determined to cause the essential tremor, essential tremors mostly occurs in people ages 40 or over. In these cases, the essential tremor may be caused by a misfiring in communication neurons between the nervous system and the cerebellum. It can also be caused by other neurological dysfunctions, and imbalances in the movement centers of the brain. 

Essential tremor is not life-threatening as mentioned before, but can become increasingly worse over the years. The younger the age of onset of the condition is, the faster the condition tends to progress. But, there is no direct path that essential tremor progresses in. Essential tremor progresses on a case by case basis, and there are many factors that worsen symptoms and can speed up the progression. 

Essential tremor is different than Parkinson’s disease because of the timing of the tremors, the conditions associated with it, and parts of the body that become affected. Tremors in Parkinson’s are not kinetic like essential tremors are, and usually occur when the muscles are at rest. Essential tremor doesn’t usually cause other health problems, but Parkinson’s does and is associated with slow movement, shuffling gait, and other posture issues. Essential tremor mainly involves your hands, while Parkinson’s is more commonly found in other parts of your body like legs, chin, and other areas. 

The etiology of essential tremor has been hard to pinpoint over the years, but the medical field has finally narrowed it down to two factors, genetic and neurological. These two factors can cause two different paths of progression, severities and other things, but essential tremor generally affects the same parts of the body regardless of the etiology. Essential tremor should be diagnosed by a medical professional so that treatment plans can be created to better benefit the patient. With more research and studies, the etiology of essential tremor will become more apparent and hopefully better treatments and even a cure will come shortly after.