(BPT) - Imagine how your life would change if you were unable to bring a cup to your mouth without spilling, if you couldn’t do the buttons on your clothes or even brush your teeth without difficulty. If you are one of the 7 million Americans living with essential tremor (ET), you already know what that's like.
ET causes one or both hands to tremble while trying to perform routine tasks like eating or getting dressed. Sometimes the head or other parts of the body are affected as well.
Although both are neurological disorders, ET is actually eight times more common than Parkinson’s disease and affects people differently. Unlike Parkinson’s, people with ET experience shaking during goal-oriented activity, while Parkinson’s patients experience trembling while at rest.
Although far more likely to occur later in life, ET can also affect younger people and even children. It is a progressive disease, so tremors usually increase in frequency and/or severity over time. Tremors are not part of the aging process; this is a big misconception.
Unfortunately, due to embarrassment about their tremors those affected by ET may shun activities they used to enjoy, becoming increasingly isolated. People who once enjoyed tennis or golf, crafts or card games might give up those hobbies, leaving them with little opportunity to socialize with others who share common interests.
“The best thing you can do is learn more about the condition and treatment options,” says Dr. Dhira Khosla, Personal Care Neurology, Oakland, CA. She also recommends being open not just with your doctor, but also with friends, family and coworkers — to increase awareness, reduce isolation and make asking for help easier.
Here are Dr. Khosla’s tips for coping with ET.
Get enough rest and reduce stress, since fatigue and tension can worsen tremors.
- Learn breathing or meditation techniques to help you relax
- Get enough sleep and eat regularly
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can affect your nervous system and interfere with medications
- Before starting a detailed task, avoid heavy lifting or other strenuous activity
Anticipate difficult issues.
- Ask for glasses or mugs to be filled half full when eating out
- Bring along your own metal straws to make drinking easier
- Order finger foods when dining out
- Use weighted pens and heavier utensils with large handles
- Use an electronic toothbrush
Let technology help you.
- Use speed dial and voice-activated controls on your phone
- Record notes on your phone instead of writing things down
- Use a voice recognition app or software for writing tasks
- Shop with a credit card or payment app instead of signing checks
Some patients are prescribed medications to treat symptoms of ET. However, these medications are not effective for everyone, and there can be unpleasant side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications, including supplements, you are already taking to avoid potential negative drug interactions. Some patients may be eligible for a surgical procedure called deep brain surgery. While there is no cure for ET currently, advances are being made in terms of treatment options.
New, non-invasive treatment for ET
Cala Health has developed an effective, non-invasive, on-demand therapy for ET that patients wear on their wrist, like a wristwatch. The wearable device, called Cala Trio, is calibrated to each patient’s individual hand tremor. When activated by the patient, it delivers gentle electrical stimulation to the nerves in the wrist. These nerves connect to the central brain network responsible for hand tremors.
The largest study ever conducted in ET found that 54% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in their tremor. Patients control the device, and can use it throughout the day to help reduce hand tremors with 40-minute stimulation sessions. In the study, patients benefiting from therapy reported an average of one and a half hours of meaningful benefit following therapy sessions. Cala Trio has been cleared by the FDA and is currently available in the US by prescription. For more information, visit CalaTrio.com/patients/.