Dealing with Tremors with Joon Faii Ong

Dr. Joon Faii Ong is a leading expert on any topic related to the causes and symptoms of tremors. He runs his own company, GyroGear, dedicated to producing products that will help people with their symptoms. While many companies seem to focus on surgery or medications to treat symptoms, Dr. Ong knows that sometimes these are not always the best way forward.

What Are Essential Tremors?

Essential tremor (ET), also called benign essential tremor, is the most common movement disorder. It can affect your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as eating and drinking. The condition usually begins when you’re between 40-50 years old. Some people see their symptoms worsen over time but often eventually stop after they reach 80-90 years old.

Symptoms of Essential Tremors

The main symptom is involuntary trembling, particularly in your hands, but it can also affect other muscles. You may find that you also start to develop a tremor: That’s when the shaking occurs even without any effort, and it goes beyond what you’re trying to do with that muscle. The shaking can be so severe it interferes with your life and daily activities. This would include such things as using cutlery, holding a toothbrush to brush your teeth, or even writing.

There are several common types of essential tremor:

Postural – Your arms and hands tremble when you try to hold them still. This is the most common type of essential tremor, affecting around 60% of people who have ET.

Action: Your muscles shake due to voluntary movements, for example, picking something up or holding it in place.

Verbal: You have a trembling voice when you talk. This is much less common than the other types of essential tremors.

Head: You can find that your head starts to shake when you try to hold it still, for example, looking upwards at the ceiling. Other muscles in your body can also be affected.

The Severity of Essential Tremors

The severity of your symptoms and whether or not they change over time will vary from person to person. In most cases, the shaking gets worse as you carry out the task that makes it worse, but in some cases, it can get better when you rest.

Causes of Essential Tremors

No one knows for sure what causes essential tremors. Still, research suggests it may be due to low levels of the neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is involved in controlling your nerve cells’ activities.

Genetics also seems to play a role, with around half of people who have essential tremors having family members affected by some form of tremor or shaking condition. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll develop the condition yourself.

Tobacco and caffeine use, as well as high stress, can make your symptoms worse, but they do not cause essential tremors.

Treatment of Essential Tremors

Surgery may be recommended if other treatment options haven’t helped. This involves destroying or removing the part of your brain that’s causing the tremor, using a technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS). After surgery, you may experience some side effects, such as speech changes and memory problems. But for many people, their symptoms improve or go away completely after surgery.

Medication is used to treat essential tremors if it’s causing your life to be severely affected by shaking. Your specialist may recommend one of several drugs, including propranolol, primidone, topiramate, and gabapentin. You may need to try different medications before you find one that works for you.