What is a tremor?
A tremor is part of your body shaking in a way you can’t control.
Tremors can happen in your hands, head, or muscles that control your voice, back, belly, or legs
A small amount of movement or mild shaking can be normal (for example, if you hold your hands out, they’ll shake a little)
Older people may think tremors are just a part of aging, but they can be a sign of something serious and should be checked by a doctor
Parkinson disease Parkinson Disease (PD) Parkinson disease is a brain disease that causes you to slowly lose control of your movements. It can cause shaking (tremors), stiff muscles, slow movements, and problems with your balance.... read more or a thyroid gland that's too active (hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in the front of your neck. Your thyroid releases thyroid hormones. The hormones control how fast your body’s chemical functions work (metabolic... read more ) can be the cause of some tremors
Taking or stopping certain medicines, stopping drinking alcohol (alcohol withdrawal Withdrawal symptoms Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant. Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma, and death. Genetics and personal characteristics may... read more ), or feeling stressed can cause tremors
Tremors can happen while you're moving or resting
Certain types of tremors may run in families
When should I see a doctor?
See a doctor right away if you have a tremor and any of these warning signs:
Tremors that started suddenly
Changes in your thinking
Changes in the way you walk
Feeling nervous or upset (agitated)
See a doctor within a week or two if you have a tremor but no warning signs, particularly if you:
Are under 50 years old
Don't have a family history of tremor
What causes a tremor?
Tremors can be normal or abnormal. Many disorders can cause tremors.
Tremors can happen when you:
Simply hold your hand outstretched—some small degree of movement is normal
Feel stressed, worried, or tired
Stop drinking alcohol
Stop taking certain medicines, such as opioids and benzodiazepines
Take certain medicines or drugs, such as albuterol, corticosteroids, or cocaine
Eat or drink caffeine, found in foods and drinks including chocolate, soda, or coffee
More serious causes of tremors are:
Nervous system problems, which often run in families (called essential tremors)
Problems in a part of your brain called the cerebellum
Tremors that happen for example, when you reach for something with your hand, are called intention tremors. This type of tremor may happen with a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or other brain problems.
What will happen at my doctor visit?
Ask about your symptoms and health history
Do a physical exam
What tests will I need?
Doctors may do brain imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more ) or computed tomography (CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more ) if:
You have warning signs related to your brain, such as changes in your thinking, trouble talking, or muscle weakness
Your tremor started suddenly or got worse quickly
Doctors may do blood tests to check your blood sugar level or to check if your thyroid gland, liver, and kidneys are working normally. These tests may help find the cause of your tremor.
How do doctors treat a tremor?
Doctors will treat the cause of your tremor. If you take medicines that could be causing your tremor, your doctors may be able to adjust your dose.
If your tremor is mild, you may not need treatment. Some simple actions may help, including:
Grabbing objects tightly and holding them close to your body to avoid dropping them
Avoiding uncomfortable positions
Using helpful devices, such as Velcro, straws, and spoons or forks with large handles
To avoid triggers of your tremor:
Avoid caffeine (in coffee, soda, chocolate, tea)
Get at least 7 hours of sleep at night
Lower your stress as much as possible
Talk to your doctor about taking medicines to ease your symptoms, such as beta-blockers, antiseizure medicines, or sedatives.
If your tremor happens when you reach for things, you may:
Work with a therapist to use weights on your wrists to steady the tremor
Hold your arm steady while reaching
If your tremor happens when you walk, strapping a weight to your ankle may help steady your leg.