The Differences Between Essential Tremors and Parkinson’s Disease

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The Differences Between Essential Tremors and Parkinson’s Disease

Couple chatting over a meal

Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease: What’s the difference?

Essential Tremors, often confused with Parkinson’s Disease, is a ‘nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.’

Conversely, Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson’s disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

How do you know if it’s Essential Tremor (ET) and NOT Parkinson’s Disease (PD)?

ET: Not usually a harmful condition and is most common in people over the age of 40.

PD: Although younger adults can have PD, it usually occurs in people over age 60, progressing over time, leading to more serious health issues

ET: Occurs when hands are in motion and can affect just one side of the body. Signs can also include uncontrolled head movements or a shaky voice

PD: Tremors occur when hands are at one’s sides or are at rest in the lap. It also affects facial muscles and legs.

ET: This condition can worsen over time but does not typically cause other serious health issues (an unsteady gait, known as ‘ataxia’).

PD: Worsening health issues can occur, such as stooped posture, increasingly slowed movements and an inability to adequately pick one’s feet up while walking, resulting in a shuffled gait.

Risk Factors for Essential Tremors: According to the Mayo Clinic, half of all ET cases are due to a genetic mutation passed on by at least one parent in which there is a 50% chance of developing ET—there is no known reason why people without this genetic mutation develop this condition.

Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease: PD typically affects men over the age of 60. Other risk factors include, a close family member who has PD or if an individual has had significant exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides.

Because both ET and PD cause tremors in the hands, one’s ability to eat or drink without spilling, manipulating a writing utensil, dressing or any other task requiring the use of hands or fingers can become quite challenging. Utilizing the best apparatuses available can help to reduce the everyday challenges that are associated with ET and PD.