What Causes Hand Tremors

What Are The Causes Of Hand Tremors?

The shaking in my hands began rather suddenly. Maybe you have noticed the tremors in your hands getting worse gradually. Perhaps you only saw it when angry or stressed. Or you may be asking yourself if some Illness or disease has caused this. No matter how severe the tremor, anyone who experiences them asks: Why do I have shaky hands?

Tremors are much more common than you might expect, afflicting nearly 10 million people in the US alone!

Shaky hands are usually not a life-threatening condition, but they do impact almost every part of daily life.

  • Tremors can be constant or intermittent; they are most common in the hands but can be active in your arms, head, voice, legs, and sometimes internally.
  • Sometimes the tremors are the only symptom; at other times, they can be symptoms of other neurological or degenerative diseases.

In today's post, we will answer the question: What are the causes of hand tremors?

Possible causes of hand tremors.

Hand tremor causes are quite diverse. Even though there is a long list of possible causes, there are just a few that are most common, and unfortunately, there is not much known about the actual cause. What we do know is how to differentiate between the severe tremors and the ones that make you say, "whew, I'm glad it's not worse!"

We'll start here with the conditions that are most responsible for hand tremors.

The following are known as "clinical conditions," which means they relate to actual human patients who have been observed and treated rather than the results of theories or laboratory experiments.

In the majority of cases, no one can identify the cause of tremors. However, neurological conditions (issues that affect the brain, nerves, and spine that connect them), and movement disorders, are most often responsible for tremors.

Familial and Essential Tremor

The most common condition associated with hand tremors is the Familial or Essential tremor. It is a movement disorder known as an action tremor. The familial tremor is considered hereditary. This diagnosis is commonly given to you when several of your family members are also affected.

The essential tremor is assigned when no one else in your family has it, and it is not presenting along with other neurological conditions. Sometimes this tremor is called a "benign essential tremor," but this term is archaic and misleading since these tremors can be entirely disabling depending upon severity.

Parkinsonian Tremor (Trembling when hands are at rest)

Another common culprit for hand tremors is Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease that mainly affects the deep parts of the brain called the basal ganglia and nervous system. Basal ganglia are brain "structures linked to the thalamus in the base of the brain and are involved in the coordination of movement"(basal ganglia definition) Link here.

Nobody knows what causes Parkinson's disease, but it is generally associated with age, and some genetic factors could weigh-in, but not enough evidence exists to identify the source.

A resting tremor is often the first sign or symptom of Parkinson's disease; it is also common to notice stooped posture and shuffling footsteps as the affected person walks. Symptoms are usually slow to progress, and tremors tend to become more prominent as this disease progresses.

Neurological conditions that cause hand tremors:

Essential Tremor: Read more on essential tremor here.

Dystonic Tremor: With dystonia, the brain sends incorrect messages because of a neurological disorder that results in recurring movements like tremors, and odd postures. Dystonia is most likely to begin in young adults to middle-aged people. Dystonic tremors can occur in any muscle, not just hands.

Multiple sclerosis or MS: this disease targets your brain, nervous system, and immune system. Because of its effect, hand and foot tremors are typical. There are a variety of tremors that Multiple Sclerosis can cause, but the most common is much like essential tremor, in that your hands will tremble when you are already moving or trying to accomplish a task.

Traumatic Brain Injury: when your brain is physically injured, nerve damage in areas of the brain that coordinate movement could result in hand tremors. It is also possible that the injury could cause Tremor or movement disorder in other parts of the body as well.

Stroke: The most common is an ischemic stroke and occurs when an artery is blocked in the brain. Blood clots are a frequent cause of a blockage and stop blood from reaching areas of the brain. Lasting damage may result as the brain cells start to die within minutes without blood flow. Damage done to neurological pathways may lead to tremors.

The following health issues can cause hand tremors:

  • psychiatric conditions, like anxiety, panic, or depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • fragile X syndrome and hereditary ataxia are degenerative disorders that are inherited
  • overactive thyroid or hyperthyroid
  • kidney or liver disease and failure
  • alcohol abuse or withdrawal
  • heavy metal poisonings such as mercury or lead
  • Huntington's disease

Tremors caused by medications:

The use of certain medicines can lead to drug-induced tremors.

  • These tremors usually occur when you move or try to hold your hands, arms, or head in a fixed position.
  • These tremors are not associated with other symptoms, except perhaps those for which you're taking medication.

Please read all of the "possible side effects" information that you receive with each of your prescriptions.

Medication-induced tremor is a muscle and nervous system response to various drugs.

Some drugs that commonly cause tremors are listed below.

  • Thalidomide and Cytarabine are cancer medicines
  • Valproic acid (Depakote) and Sodium Valproate (Depakene) are seizure medicines
  • Theophylline and Albuterol are Asthma medicines
  • Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus are Immune suppressing medicines
  • Lithium Carbonate is a mood stabilizer
  • Amphetamines and stimulants like Caffeine and Nicotine
  • Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclics are antidepressant drugs
  • Amiodarone, Procainamide, and several others are heart medicines
  • Antibiotics of various types
  • Acyclovir and Vidarabine are antivirals
  • Epinephrine and Norepinephrine
  • Levothyroxine a thyroid medicine (if too much is prescribed)
  • Tiratricol a weight loss medication
  • some high blood pressure drugs
  • Tetrabenazine used to treat excessive movement disorder
  • Alcohol, usually too much

Common symptoms of drug-induced tremor:

Drug-induced tremors may be:

  • Episodic, occurring shortly after taking medicine.
  • Intermittent, tremor starts and stops with activities. e.g., It may stop when sleeping and get worse with stress, but not consistently.
  • Sporadic, the tremors happen on occasion and unpredictably. Tremors can begin while moving or at rest.
  • Tremors can affect the arms, head, hands, eyelids, and voice. The lower body is rarely affected by tremors.
  • Each side of the body can be affected differently by the tremors.
  • Drug-induced tremors are usually fast, from 4 to 12 movements per second.
  • Tremors from medication usually go away when you stop taking medicine. (Of course, be sure to consult your physician before discontinuing the use of prescribed medication.)

To avoid drug-induced tremors, make sure you tell your doctor about all of the medications you take, even the over-the-counter drugs.

To sum up,

The two most common causes of hand tremors are Familial or Essential Tremor and Parkinson's disease. Other neurological disorders are to blame as well but on a smaller scale. There are no officially known reasons for either Essential Tremor or Parkinson's disease to affect an individual. Family history can be of some use, but actual scientific evidence has been inconclusive when trying to determine the real risk for getting one of these conditions.

I would love to hear from you!

If you or someone you know has hand tremors please leave a comment below.

Any questions? handtremor.com is here for you. I've got a lot of life experience dealing with this issue. I'm not a doctor, but I'd be delighted to offer support and encouragement to anyone like me with ET!

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.

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