Both Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Essential tremor (ET), are nervous system disorders. But Essential Tremor is likely to hit a patient eight times more than Parkinson’s Disease. However, people often misdiagnose Essential Tremor as Parkinson’s disease because of common symptoms, treatment methods and diagnostic methods related to them. Up to 20 percent of people who have Essential Tremor can develop Parkinson’s Disease, but whether Essential Tremor leads to Parkinson’s Disease is still not confirmed.
It is important for any person having doubts regarding their condition, to get a detailed diagnosis done both by a medical professional and by their own. For a start, here are some of the ways one can understand the difference between essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease:
Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease
Usually, Essential tremor starts as a tremor with low amplitude and then can gradually increase to a coarse and disabling tremor. This means that the frequency of the tremor may decrease but as a confirmed sign of severity of the condition, the amplitude (strength/magnitude) of the tremor increases. Increased amplitude results in decreased ability to perform even the basic motor tasks. The amplitude varies up to 23 percent throughout the day keeping the frequency unchanged.
Essential tremor presents itself as bilateral in nature and is seen primarily during action. In situations like writing, eating or even holding any object against gravity, the tremors arise and can be seen in both sides of the body depending on which side is in action. But Parkinson’s Disease tremors occur when the person is in rest position or the posture is different than normal body postures are rest. It is also unilateral in nature in the initial stages but can eventually spread to both sides of the body with ageing.
Essential tremor most commonly affects the hands, legs, head, and voice, and tremor is the primary symptom of Essential tremor. In Parkinson’s Disease, the cardinal symptoms include Bradykinesia (slowing down of basic body movements), rigidity, tremor, and gait/balance issues.
Another important sign to notice is that it is not necessary that a person who develops Parkinson’s Disease experiences any kind of tremors at all. The tremor related to Parkinson’s Disease occurs generally in the upper and lower extremities of the chin/jaw and does not affect the head or voice.
Essential tremors most commonly show onset during the middle age, but are also seen in other age groups including children. But the progression of ET can be highly variable. In some patients, ET can be mild throughout the lifespan and does not result in any significant disability while in others it can progress quite fast with a significant disability making even the daily functions difficult and even impossible to complete.
The average onset of Parkinson’s Disease is 60 years. It is also known as the disorder of the elderly. There negligible to no chance of progression of Parkinson’s Disease to stall at any point of time after onset. But the speed of progression can be highly varied from being slow to really fast without any prior symptoms.
The accounting of genes in Essential tremor patients has not yet been identified but it is an autosomal dominant disorder with more than 50 percent of patients showing medium to high family history of tremors. It is not uncommon for a patient to report multiple people in the family history with Essential tremor .
Parkinson’s Disease is not significantly an autosomal dominant disorder and is not yet identified as affected by genes. But even in case of Parkinson’s Disease almost 20 percent of patients have a family history of Parkinson’s Disease which identifies as normal family history scale as compared to any other disorder. But genetic predisposition and its combination with many other aspects can be a cause of Parkinson’s Disease in many patients.
Both Essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease are movement disorders and are caused due to malfunctioning of the motor function capability of the brain. But there is a significant difference in the diagnosis procedure of both Essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease.Parkinson’s Disease may result in certain tremors to occur which are similar to essential tremor but the same is not applicable in patients suffering from essential tremor. Similarly the treatment for essential tremors can be similar to that of Parkinson’s Disease related tremors. But Parkinson’s Disease medications might not help in treating Essential tremor. The medication of Parkinson’s Disease needs to be enhanced in terms of dosage and frequency with time and progression of the disease but in case of Essential tremor, the medicine dosage or frequency might not necessarily change. Also the medication of Essential tremor does not show any positive effects on the tremors related to Parkinson’s Disease.
Food and beverages like alcohol show a significant effect in controlling Essential Tremors. But this is not seen in the PD patients. Alcohol is said to calm down the tremor during action and is recommended for patients with Essential tremor in regulated doses. But there is no confirm benefit of alcohol for Parkinson’s Disease patients till now.
While patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease essentially change their lifestyle and have to go through a lot of changes along with chronic issue during their course, Essential tremor patients do not show a notable lifestyle change. In case of Parkinson’s Disease, as it onsets in the elderly, there is no affect on the professional life. In case of Essential tremor patients the tremor’s occurrence is mostly when the person is in action and has a drastic affect on social and professional life. As Essential tremor progresses, the tremors can make even the most basic lifestyle tasks impossible to complete causing a serious trauma leading to depression and anxiety in the younger and middle age groups.
Stress makes tremors worse. So does coffee. Certain medicines also have a negative effect on tremors in the long term including stimulants, lithium, anti-depressants and thyroid hormone medications.
Parkinson’s Disease medications only need to be increased in terms of dosage and frequency. Other medications like anti-depressants may affect worsen the condition but it is not yet confirmed or backed by any sources or research studies. The tactical side of both the conditions is quite stressing and needs external help and support both physically and mentally for a good life through the struggle of treating the diseases.
Note – All the information provided on our website is purely informational based on our research and individual experiences. It should not be considered as medical advice at any level. Kindly consult a medical professional and continue your follow ups as advised by your neurologist/movement disorder specialist.