Familial tremor is a type of essential tremor syndrome. Essential tremor is fairly common, affecting almost 25 percent of all people as they get older. A tremor is a rhythmic muscle activity or shaking motion which cannot be stopped at will. It most likely makes itself known in the hands, head or voice, though any body part can be affected.
Resting or static tremors occur when the body part is at rest. Kinetic and intention tremors take place while the body part is moving and stops when at rest. Postural or action tremors happen when the body part is in a particular position for some time, e.g., writing, holding a cup, or standing in a certain posture.
Usually, familial tremor is a dominant trait. This means a gene from one parent can be enough to develop the tremor and there is a 50 percent chance of inheritance. Familial tremor is an essential tremor that occurs in more than one family member. It usually appears in early middle age. Over 50 percent of all essential tremor syndrome cases are this type.
People may worry that they have Parkinson's Disease but the two conditions are very different. While Parkinson's Disease also includes a stooped posture, slow movements and a shuffling walk, familial tremor does not.
Parkinson's tremors occur when hands are at the sides or at rest, while familial tremors occur while hands are in motion. Unlike familial tremors, Parkinson's tremors do not usually occur in the head or the voice.
Familial tremor can worsen over time. Fortunately, though familial tremor is frustrating and limiting, it is not life threatening. However it may become increasingly difficult to hold a glass without spilling its contents. Eating can become a challenge. Writing legibly can pose real problems. If your larynx (voice box) or tongue is affected by tremor, it may be hard to talk.
Some adaptation may bring relief. Breathing exercises or meditation help some people. Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, decongestants, or other stimulants, and getting plenty of sleep helps others. Switching to heavier dishes, glasses and cutlery may make a difference. Wearing wrist weights and writing with wider or heavier pens may help.
Physical therapy may reduce tremor, improving muscle control and coordination. For some people, acupuncture, hypnosis, massage and biofeedback have proven helpful.
See your physician to ascertain that tremors are not due to some medication you are taking. Your doctor may be able to change the dosage or switch to another medication.