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Posted: September 17, 2010

Keeping Seniors Healthy

Botox for Treating Shaky Hands?

Q. I heard that Botox can help if you have shaky hands. Is that true? I’m asking because my mother has many tremors that bother her and, frankly, me too.

A. “Shaky hands” is a symptom of “essential tremor,” which is the most common movement disorder. The medical community calls it “essential,” because it isn’t linked to other diseases.

Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections, popular for ironing wrinkles, is used to treat muscle spasms and tremors caused by diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and neurological conditions such as muscle spasms of the neck, shoulders  and face.

And, yes, it’s true that Botox is used to treat hand tremors. Injections can bring relief for up to three months.

Essential tremor (ET) is often confused with Parkinson's disease. Unlike Parkinson's disease, however, ET doesn't lead to serious complications. Parkinson's is associated with a stooped posture, slow movement, a shuffling gait and other difficulties.

Not all tremors are ET. There are more than 20 kinds of tremors. For instance, excessive caffeine, alcohol withdrawal, problems with thyroid or copper metabolism or the use of certain medications may cause tremor.

A genetic mutation is responsible for about half of all cases of ET. The only other known risk factor is older age. Although ET can affect people of all ages, it usually appears in middle age or later. Men and women are affected equally.

Abnormal communication within the brain causes ET. There is no cure yet for this disorder.

Tremor is an involuntary movement of one or more parts of the body. Most tremors occur in the hands. Tremors can also show up in the arms, head, face, vocal cords, trunk, and legs.

Victims of tremors usually get them when they make a delicate movement such as writing with a pen or tying shoelaces. Tremors usually disappear when a person is resting.

Some people have relatively mild tremors throughout their lives, but others develop more severe tremors and increased disability.

Most people with ET don't need treatment. The effects of the condition can be eased by avoiding what aggravates the problem -- lack of sufficient sleep, anxiety, stimulants such as caffeine, and temperature extremes.

Drinking alcohol can calm tremors for up to an hour after consumption. However, tremors tend to worsen when the alcohol wears off.

Physical therapy and exercise can develop more stability in hands that shake.

And there are other medications besides Botox that can bring relief. These include beta blockers normally used to treat high blood pressure, anti-seizure medications and tranquilizers.

If tremors are severe and drugs don’t help, there are surgical procedures available.

Thalamotomy is a procedure that involves making a small hole in a part of the brain called the thalamus. The surgery destroys the faulty circuit or brain cells that modulate tremor.

An alternative to thalamotomy is thalamic stimulation. An electrode connected to a stimulation device, is placed in the center of the brain. The stimulator is placed under the skin below the collarbone.

Electrical currents sent through the electrode interrupt communication between tremor cells. This process reduces tremors within seconds.

Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. He has written two published novels: Saltwater Taffy, and Local Angles. You can send your health-related questions to Fred at

© 2010 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.
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