Learn About Ailments | Tremors


A tremor (trembling) is an involuntary movement involving the head, arms or legs that occur because of conditions affecting the nervous system. It can stem from a nervous disorder, disease or a side effect of medication. Some reasons could be Drug/ Alcohol withdrawal, stress, high salt levels, fatigue & medications.

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of tremors
Symptoms of tremors Diagnosis of tremors
Related terms

  • 5% of elderly people experience tremors
  • Essential tremor is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease
  • There are 20 different types of tremor
  • 1 in 20 people over 40 have essential tremor

Everyone experiences tremors from time to time particularly when performing daily tasks or when holding an arm or leg out for a period of time.

Other causes of tremors include:
  • withdrawal from drugs or alcohol
  • side-effects of certain medications
  • stress, anxiety and anger (as the body is flooded with adrenaline)
  • a diet with high salt consumption or excess caffeine
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • neurological disorders (e.g. Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, MS, stroke)

Tremors become a disorder when they are experienced frequently. This typically occurs with the elderly but can affect people of all ages. Known as 'essential tremor', the condition can be hereditary and so is an autosomal dominant disorder whereby the faulty gene responsible for the condition is passed from parent to child.

The main symptom of tremors is an involuntary or uncontrollable shaking. In essential tremor, nine in 10 people experience trembling of the hands but the whole body can be affected including the tongue and voice-box (which makes the voice sound shaky).

Essential tremor typically begins in mid to late life and affects both sides of the body particularly when trying to hold something in the hands. Caffeine, stress,, physical activity and prescribed drugs can make tremors worse.

In the first instance you should visit your GP if you experience frequent tremors. The GP will take a medical history including asking about any drug or alcohol consumption which may be the cause of your problem.

While no specific test exists for tremors, the GP may refer you for X-rays, urine tests, blood tests or MRI scans to rule out any underlying causes. You may also need an EMG test to check for electrical activity in the muscles.

Muscle spasms
Multiple sclerosis
Parkinson's disease
Delirium tremens (DTs)

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