image donateEssential tremor is a type of uncontrollable shake or tremble of part of the body. 

Most people with essential tremor experience a trembling, up-and-down movement of the hands. 

The arms, head, eyelids, lips and other muscles can also be affected. A tremor in the voice box (larynx) may cause a shaky voice.

Essential tremor is usually more noticeable when you're trying to hold a position or do something with your hands, such as write. It doesn't always affect both sides of the body equally.

Essential tremor is a common movement disorder affecting around four out of 100 adults over 40 years of age. Some people only have a mild tremor at first, which usually gets more severe over time.

Normal tremor

Everyone has a very minor tremor when carrying out daily activities. For example, your hands will shake slightly when you hold them out in front of you. This is normal. 

Sometimes, the everyday level of tremor can become more noticeable, particularly in older people. Noticeable tremor is also normal and it's often caused by a raised level of adrenaline in the body, which can happen when a person is stressed, anxious or angry.

When does a tremor become a problem?

Essential tremor is more severe than normal tremor and it gradually gets worse over time. Eventually, the tremor may become so severe that carrying out normal, everyday activities can become difficult.

Certain things may temporarily increase any tremor, including: 

  • tiredness caused by strenuous activity or lack of sleep 
  • smoking 
  • caffeine – from tea, coffee and some fizzy drinks 
  • being very hot or cold 
  • taking certain medicines  including some antidepressants and treatments for asthma.

Source: Essential tremor - NHS Choices