Is Your Trembling Caused by Parkinson’s — or a Condition With Similar Symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease, symptoms of Parkinson's disease, reasons for trembling hands

More than 10 million people around the globe have Parkinson’s disease, and there are 60,000 new diagnoses in the United States each year. While these numbers may seem large, in point of fact they’re quite small compared to the overall population. What these numbers are meant to illustrate is that not every tremor or shake finds its roots in Parkinson’s — there are other conditions that bring on the same symptoms.

At Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles, our team of experienced and knowledgeable neurologists are highly trained in neurological disorders, which allows us to help our patients better navigate this tricky area of health. While the human brain has been notoriously difficult to figure out, we are gaining some considerable ground, especially in areas like Parkinson’s disease.

If you’ve developed a tremor and are worried about Parkinson’s disease, here’s a quick look at the neurological disorder and the conditions that mimic it.

Parkinson’s disease 101

It’s extremely difficult to sum up a complex neurological disorder like Parkinson’s disease in a few simple sentences, but the bottom line is that this condition primarily affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of your brain known as the substantia nigra.

This dopamine deficit is what leads to the four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s, which typically develop after your 50s, and include:

The problem with Parkinson’s disease is that there’s no definitive test to confirm the presence of the neurological disorder, but we do have a number of ways we diagnose the condition, including running tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Other reasons for trembling

Trembling isn’t a condition, but a symptom of a problem, and there are a fair number of medical issues that can cause trembling.

Leading the pack is what we call an essential tremor, which is a dysfunction in your brain that causes shaky hands. There are many scenarios under which an essential tremor can develop, including:

In fact, there are some medications that can bring on an essential tremor as a side effect.

One of the biggest differences between an essential tremor and the trembling that accompanies Parkinson’s disease is that with Parkinson’s your tremor is present when you’re at rest. If you’re moving around, trying to make a cup of coffee, for example, and your hand is trembling, it may be an essential tremor.

But this rule of thumb is terribly inexact. The only way to know for sure what’s causing your trembling is to have one of our neurological experts run a complete diagnostic.

Rooting out the cause

If you’re experiencing a tremor, it’s always a good idea to come see us. Whether you’re dealing with Parkinson’s disease or an essential tremor brought about by another condition, we can help you get to the bottom of the problem through blood tests, brain scans, and a thorough review of your medical history and your family’s medical history. By rooting out the cause of your trembling, we can come up with a treatment plan to improve your quality of life.

If you have any questions about Parkinson’s disease or your symptoms, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Or you can use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.

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