NYM Offers Essential Treatment for Essential Tremors

Aug 31, 2007

  August 31, 2007

NYM Offers Essential Treatment for Essential Tremors

Trembling of the hands is not necessarily just a sign of getting older. It could be an indication of a more serious problem, called essential tremor (ET), which affects the lives of nearly 10 million Americans.

ET is a neurological movement disorder characterized by the shaking of hands, and sometimes other body parts, including the head or voice, brought on by action movements. The disorder can affect people of any age, gender or race and worsens in response to fatigue or stress. ET often makes everyday tasks such as eating, drinking or writing seem nearly impossible.

At NYM, medical professionals offer comprehensive movement disorder services to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from various types of movement disorders including ET. "Fifty percent of ET cases are due to inheritance, so it is extremely important for us to obtain a full patient family history in order to accurately diagnose and treat the problem," said Miran Salgado, M.D., chairman of the Department of Neurosciences.

"All too often, patients with ET are misdiagnosed because shaking automatically gets associated with Parkinson's disease," he said. "The main difference between ET tremors and those caused by Parkinson's disease is that with ET, the shaking is induced by intentional action movements whereas with Parkinson's disease, patients experience shaking and stiffness while at rest," said Dr. Salgado.

Although ET is the most common movement disorder, only a small percentage of patients seek treatment. "While a cure for ET has yet to be discovered, several medical and surgical treatments and coping strategies have become available to help people control the disorder," said Martin Zonenshayn, M.D., chief of the Division of Neurosurgery.

Once a patient is diagnosed with ET, neurologists at NYM carefully evaluate him or her to determine the best course of medical therapy. If frontline drugs prove ineffective, deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy is often used. DBS, which is also used for patients with Parkinson's disease, works by delivering electrical stimulation to hyperactive brain cells. The electrical stimulation stops the behavior of brain cells that cause the tremor.

"DBS is similar for both ET and Parkinson's disease; however the ET surgery is easier, quicker and can provide immediate noticeable relief," said Dr. Zonenshayn. "Once the stimulator is turned on you can literally count to 10 and the tremor will be gone," he said. Eighty-five to ninety percent of DBS patients have significant tremor improvement or complete disappearance of tremors after undergoing the procedure. "People with this disorder need to know that there is help out there."

For more information or for a referral to a physician associated with the Hospital's Institute for Neurosciences, please call (toll free) 866-DO-NEURO (866-366-3876).

Martin Zonenshayn, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at NYM, uses DBS therapy for patients with essential tremor.