Diagnosis

Diagnosing essential tremor involves reviewing your medical history, family history and symptoms and conducting a physical examination.

There are no medical tests to diagnose essential tremor. Diagnosing it is often a matter of ruling out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. To do this, your doctor may suggest the following tests:

Neurological examination

In a neurological examination, your doctor surveys your nervous system functioning, including checking your:

  • Tendon reflexes
  • Muscle strength and tone
  • Ability to feel certain sensations
  • Posture and coordination
  • Gait

Laboratory tests

Your blood and urine may be tested for several factors, including:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Metabolic problems
  • Drug side effects
  • Alcohol levels
  • Levels of chemicals that may cause tremor

Performance tests

To evaluate the tremor itself, your doctor may ask you to:

  • Drink from a glass
  • Hold your arms outstretched
  • Write
  • Draw a spiral

If your doctor is still unsure if your tremor is essential tremor or Parkinson's disease, he or she might order a dopamine transporter scan. This can tell the difference between the two types of tremor.

Jan. 20, 2016
References
  1. NINDS essential tremor information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/essential_tremor/essential_tremor.htm. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
  2. Facts about essential tremor. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
  3. Tarsy D. Surgical treatment of essential tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
  4. Tarsy D. Overview of tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
  5. What is essential tremor? Genetics Home Reference. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/essential-tremor/. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
  6. Tarsy D. Pharmacologic treatment of essential tremor. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 12, 2015.
  7. Essential tremor (ET) patient handbook. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.
  8. Essential tremor (ET) coping tips for everyday living. International Essential Tremor Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/free-downloads/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.