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How To Tell The Difference Between Essential Tremor And Parkinson’s

How Is Dyskinesia Diagnosed

Beyond Tremors: Essential Tremor vs. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinsons dyskinesia is most often diagnosed via a physical examination and clinical history review. Movement disorder specialists and neurologists are best equipped to make this diagnosis. To help confirm the diagnosis more objectively, your doctor may also suggest that you video yourself when youre at home or use a wearable device that can detect movements over time.

Handwriting: A Strange Clue

Micrographia, very small and crowded handwriting, is one of the hallmark signs of Parkinson’s disease that doctors will look for it’s even one of the main reasons they’ll ask patients to fill diagnostic questionnaires out themselves. This handwriting may start off having a normal “font size”, but then gradually become smaller and smaller as the patient writes more.

People with Essential Tremor don’t have micrographia their handwriting can be affected by their condition, but it’s much more likely to become larger and more shaky .

Defining The Condition: Parkinsons Vs Essential Tremor

Parkinsons Disease: According to the Parkinsons Foundation, Parkinsons disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. Parkinsons itself is not a fatal disease, however, it can have serious complications that can be.

  • At what age does Parkinsons usually manifest? Typically Parkinsons typically manifests in individuals 50 years or older. However, Young Onset Parkinsons , affects 2% to 10% of individuals in the U.S. with Parkinsons.
  • What is the prevalence of Parkinsons disease? According to Nih.gov, approximately 1.8% of adults 65 and older suffer from Parkinsons disease.

Essential Tremor: As defined by John Hopkins Medicine, essential tremor disorder is a neurological condition that causes your hands, head, trunk, voice, or legs to shake rhythmically. Generally, these tremors are worse when moving than when at rest. However, tremors can be severe enough to interfere with regular daily activities such as eating, speaking, and even using the restroom independently. Essential tremor is considered benign, or non-life-threatening.

  • At what age does essential tremor usually manifest? Essential tremor typically affects individuals over the age of 65, however, it can develop at any age.
  • What is the prevalence of essential tremor? According to Nih.gov, approximately 4.67% of adults 65 and older suffer from essential tremor.

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Parkinson’s Disease Vs Essential Tremor Early Symptoms How They Differ

As many as one million Americans currently live with Parkinson’s disease and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Around the world, more than 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the Parkinsons Disease Foundation.

A new study published in the journal Brain has shed new light on the genetics behind essential tremor, which is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. Understanding the differences between both diseases is key to reducing the prevalence of medical mistakes. Heres everything you need to know about both diseases.

Researchers are examining the genetics behind how essential tremor affects the body.Photo courtesy of Simon Gerard

Misperception #: Head Tremor Occurs In Et But Not In Pd

9 Fundamental Differences Between Parkinsons Disease and ...

Head tremor is observed in patients with ET, with the reported prevalence being dependent on the ascertainment of the cases. One study noted head tremor in 12% of patients in the community, 37% in a tertiary referral center and 54% in a brain repository . Two studies evaluating factors associated with head tremor found that women with ET were four to six times more likely to have head tremor than men with ET . The head tremor of ET is typically a postural tremor that resolves at rest . Yet head tremor is not unique to ET. Head tremor has also been described in PD patients one study reported head tremor in 17% of clinically diagnosed PD cases . Head tremor was described in detail in five clinically diagnosed PD cases . The head tremor was present at rest , had a frequency similar to the 46-Hz rest tremor of the limbs and responded to levodopa . None of the cases had voice tremor.

Clinical pearl #4: Head tremor often occurs in patients with ET but can on occasion also be seen in patients with PD. The head tremor of ET is typically one that resolves at rest , in contrast to what has been reported in PD.

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Summary Essential Tremor Vs Parkinsons Disease

Essential tremor is a neurological disease with autosomal dominant inheritance, which primarily characterizes the development of bilateral, low amplitude tremor whereas Parkinsons disease is a movement disorder characterizes a decline in the dopamine level of the brain. Essential tremors have an autosomal dominant inheritance, but Parkinsons disease does not have such a genetic predisposition. This is the main difference between essential tremors and Parkinsons disease.


1. Kumar, Parveen J., and Michael L. Clark. Kumar & Clark clinical medicine. Edinburgh: W.B. Saunders, 2012. Print. Ser. 8.

Image Courtesy:

1.8376271918 by _DJ_ via Flickr2.Writing by a Parkinsons disease patientBy Jean-Martin Charcot via Commons Wikimedia

What Is The Difference Between Essential Tremor Andparkinson’s

The exact cause of essential tremor is unknown while Parkinson’sdisease is better understood.

In Parkinson’s disease, neurons located in the part of the brain thatcontrols movement become impaired or die. These neurons usually produce achemical called dopamine which enables regular body movements. When the neuronscan’t produce necessary levels of dopamine, tremors can occur, along withrigidity of limbs and decreased coordination.

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What Is Dyskinesia In Parkinsons Disease

Dyskinesia is predominately a side effect of a medication called levodopa thats used to treat Parkinsons disease.

To the trained eye, dyskinesias look quite different , says Herrington. Dyskinesias are not rhythmic they have a more writhing quality.

Herrington points out that you can see an example of dyskinesia if you look at videos of Michael J. Fox. Usually, he says, when is on camera, he has some dyskinesia, or extra movements that are involuntary.

S Of The Body Affected

Differences Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease

The tremor in PD usually starts on one side of the body and may develop on the other side as the disease progresses. In ET, the tremor usually affects both sides from the beginning of the condition.2

The hands are more often affected with tremor than the legs in people with PD, and the voice and head are almost never involved. In ET, the hands are also predominantly affected, but the tremor can also be present in the head and voice.2,3

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Confusion With Essential Tremor

The tremor of Parkinsons disease is often confused with the tremor of a condition called Essential Tremor, or Benign Familial Tremor . Katherine Hepburn had Essential Tremor, and was originally misdiagnosed with Parkinsons. Ronald Reagan also had Essential Tremor. Both had a head tremor and a vocal tremor. In Essential Tremor, the hands are most commonly involved, followed by the head and then the voice. Essential Tremor can also cause the jaw to tremor, and it may be difficult to figure out if a jaw tremor is from Essential Tremor or Parkinsons. Unfortunately, some people may have both disorders. Some authorities believe that there is, in fact, an increased association between the two conditions, so that more people with Parkinsons disease have Essential Tremor than would be expected by chance alone, but this has not been established.

What Is Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons disease is a progressive condition that causes trouble with movement. Its caused by the death of cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This part of your brain produces the neurotransmitter dopamine.

In some cases, specific genetic mutations are linked to the development of Parkinsons. But more often, it seems to appear randomly. Its thought that environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides, herbicides, or air pollution may contribute, but more evidence is needed to understand the potential link.

According to the National Institute on Aging, Parkinsons most commonly develops in people over the age of 60 and affects men about 50 percent more often than women.

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Diagnostic Criteria For Et & Pd

Two sets of criteria are commonly used for the diagnosis of ET. For definite ET, the diagnostic criteria proposed by the Movement Disorder Society require the presence of persistent, bilateral postural tremor of the forearms . Kinetic tremor may be present, but is not necessary for the diagnosis . No other abnormal neurological signs may be present, except for Froments sign, which is a cogwheel phenomenon without rigidity . For definite ET, the criteria proposed by the Washington Heights-Inwood Genetic Study of Essential Tremor require the presence of moderate amplitude postural tremor as well as kinetic tremor, with the latter resulting in impairment of activities of daily living .

The UK Parkinsons Disease Society Brain Bank criteria require postmortem confirmation for the diagnosis of definite PD . The diagnosis of probable PD requires bradykinesia and one of the following additional features: rigidity, 46-Hz rest tremor or postural instability . In addition, three supportive features are required . The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke criteria for PD only include clinical criteria for possible PD, which require three out of four of the following features: rest tremor, bradykinesia, rigidity or asymmetric onset .

Can Something Be Done About Voice Tremor

Essential Tremor vs Parkinsons Disease: What

Botulinum toxin injections are generally the most effective treatment for voice tremor. Deep brain stimulation using bilateral stimulation may also help voice tremors, but will often cause slurred speech as well. For those with essential tremor, DBS is most often placed unilaterally , at least initially.

Chou, K, Grube, S, Patil, P. Deep Brain Stimulation. A New Life for People with Parkinsons Dystonia, and Essential Tremor. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2012.International Essential Tremor Foundation. . ET vs. Parkinsons: How do they differ? Retrieved January 15, 2015, from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. . Tremor Fact Sheet. My head shakes: is it dystonia? .

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Symptoms Of Essential Tremor

The primary symptom of essential tremor is involuntary, rhythmic shaking. This tremor can affect any part of the body, though the disorder typically occurs most often in the hands and arms. These symptoms can potentially progress to the voice and head, though for many people the symptoms are relegated to mild tremors in the hands and arms. When it does spread to the head, a head tremor may manifest as no-no or yes-yes nodding.

Essential tremor begins slowly and usually affects one side of the body. The tremor also gets worse when you move. Tremors can also get aggravated by caffeine, fatigue, extreme temperatures, or emotional distress.

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Do I Have Parkinsons Disease Or An Essential Tremor

2 Minute Read

Medically Reviewed by UPMC Susquehanna

While you may be familiar with Parkinsons disease, essential tremor is much less known, yet much more commoneight times more common, in fact.

Parkinsons disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system noticeable by resting tremor, balance issues, muscular rigidity, and slow movement. It typically affects middle-aged and elderly people. In addition to motor symptoms, Parkinsons patients can also experience depression, sleep disorders, loss of smell, constipation. In Parkinson plus syndrome, patients can also have autonomic dysfunction, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinsons disease every year. The cause of Parkinsons disease is unknown.

Essential tremor is one of the most common movement disorders in the world that seems to strike people over age 40. It is a progressive condition which starts with an uncontrollable movement of the hands when trying to reach something. Essential tremor can happen in the vocal cords, the head, and the legs. Even the early stages, essential tremor can make life difficult. You may have trouble writing, holding things, putting key to the lock, and preforming fine movement in your job. Tremor can stop after drinking alcohol. Essential tremor is believed to be caused by a genetic mutation can be inherited.

Diagnosing Parkinsons Vs Essential Tremor

How to distinguish Parkinson’s disease from Essential Tremor – New Day Northwest

The difference between essential tremor and Parkinsons can be so slight that it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose these conditions correctly. In fact, they are often mistaken for one another, which can be frustrating for physicians and patients alike. Specialty physicians that diagnose and treat these conditions are Movement Disorder Neurologists.

While there are no official tests for either condition, there are several diagnostic techniques that physicians employ to attempt properly diagnose essential tremor vs. Parkinsons, including:

  • Physical examination: During a physical examination, a physician evaluates the patients motor skills to help in their determination of whether they suffer from essential tremor vs. Parkinsons.
  • DaTscan: During a DaTscan, a radioactive tracer is injected, which makes its way into the brain, where it attaches to dopamine transporters. Special imaging scans are then conducted to see whether the dopamine system is healthy. If it is irregular, it may help diagnose your condition as Parkinsons.
  • Handwriting sample evaluation: A doctor may be able to differentiate Parkinsons vs. essential tremor using a handwriting sample because those with Parkinsons typically exhibit exceptionally small handwriting, whereas those with ET exhibit larger, shaky handwriting.

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Difference Between Essential Tremor And Parkinsons Disease

August 9, 2018 Posted by Ranidu

The key difference between essential tremors and Parkinsons disease is that the essential tremor has an autosomal dominant trait whereas the Parkinsons disease does not have such a pattern of inheritance. Also, the characteristic clinical feature of essential tremor is the bilateral, low amplitude tremor, prominently in the upper limbs, but Parkinsons disease is a movement disorder, and in the late stage, the patient can develop cognitive impairments as well.

Essential tremor and Parkinsons disease are both neurological conditions. The presence of tremors is the characteristic feature of these conditions.

Types Of Tremor & Tremor Terminology

Before proceeding further, it is important to briefly delve into tremor nosology. There is a variety of tremor types that clinicians must consider when evaluating patients . Rest tremor occurs when voluntary muscle activity is absent. Action tremor can be subdivided into postural, kinetic and intention tremors. Postural tremor occurs when holding a body part motionless against gravity. Re-emergent tremor is a particular type of postural tremor when the patient holds their arms extended, the tremor commences after a variable latency of one to several seconds. Kinetic tremor occurs with voluntary movement . Intention tremor occurs with goal-directed movement and worsens as the body part approaches the target. Familiarity with the terms defined above is necessary in order to understand the diagnostic criteria, which have been proposed for both ET and PD.

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Clinical Situation #: Et Or Et+pd

Clinical summary

A 40-year-old woman with a family history of ET develops a kinetic tremor and, a few years later, a postural head tremor. Her tremor worsens considerably such that she has severe and debilitating tremor by the age of 65 years. At 70 years of age, she also develops a tremor at rest with no other features of parkinsonism.

This patient likely only has ET with isolated rest tremor, a feature that can develop in ET cases with longstanding and severe disease.

What Is The Difference In Treatment

Difference Between Tremors and Dyskinesia

At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between dyskinesia and tremor, so it is essential to find a doctor with enough expertise to do so. Making the correct diagnosis is critically important, as it can profoundly alter treatment decisions.

If a person with Parkinsons is having dyskinesias that are bothersome and/or present most of the time, one option is to reduce the levodopa dose or other related Parkinsons medications. However, if doing so would adversely affect the control of your chief Parkinsons symptoms, your doctor may prescribe treatment to specifically target the dyskinesia. An extended-release formulation of amantadine has been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia in people with Parkinsons and has been demonstrated to also reduce OFF time, when Parkinsons symptoms re-emerge. Another option is to consider other forms of amantadine, which are approved to treat Parkinsons and may be prescribed off-label to treat dyskinesia.

In short, making the wrong decision such as increasing levodopa when the person with Parkinsons actually has bothersome dyskinesias or decreasing the dose when the person with Parkinsons actually has tremor, can significantly compromise normal movement and quality of life.

For people with Parkinsons who are good candidates and willing to undergo surgery, deep brain stimulation can be a successful treatment option for controlling Parkinsons dyskinesia and parkinsonian tremor.

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A Closer Look At Your Family History

The majority of cases of Parkinson’s disease do not seem to run in families depending on the data set you look at, anywhere from less than 10 percent to up to 20 percent of people with Parkinson’s have a close relative with the disease. In contrast, over half of people diagnosed with Essential Tremor have other known cases of the same condition somewhere within their more immediate families. Your family history may, thus, give you a clue as to what condition you are more likely to suffer from. This is of course one of the reasons your diagnosing doctor will inquire about your family history.


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