Essential Tremor
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Background Information
I (Shari Finsilver) have had Essential Tremor (ET) since I was 11 years old. ET affects up to 10 million people in the United States, yet few have ever heard of this neurological disorder. Essential Tremor patients are often misdiagnosed and, therefore, never receive proper medical information or treatment.

Essential Tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting the hands, arms, voice, head, legs, and/or trunk. The tremor is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinsonís Disease. Unlike Parkinsonís, where the tremor occurs most often in the arms or hands while they are at rest or in a fixed position, ET is most evident while the limb is in a sustained posture or performing an action. Parkinsonís affects an estimated 1 million people, as compared to the 10 million with ET, yet most people are very aware of Parkinsonís, especially since several celebrities have been recently diagnosed. Most ET patients have just been told that they are nervous people and not to worry about it.

The symptoms of ET can become so severe that they cause patients to become reclusive, due to their difficulties with daily living activities and their severe embarrassment. Tremors become more pronounced when patients are cold, hungry, tired, or stressed, and after any form of physical exercise, since their adrenaline level has increased. It can become impossible to feed, dress, or bathe oneself; cook or clean; write; perform in public; hold or feed a baby; and so on. The simplest tasks, that most people perform daily and take for granted, are extremely difficult for ET patients to accomplish.

Medications are available which have proven to be very effective for some patients. For others, like myself, surgery has been the miraculous, life-changing solution that medication could not provide. In my case, I have the Activa device (similar to a pacemaker) implanted in my brain and abdomen, which delivers electrical stimulation to block the brain signals that cause my tremor. I turn the system on every morning when I wake up, using a special magnet, and turn it off when I go to bed at night (so as to conserve the battery life).

Anyone wishing additional information about Essential Tremor should contact the International Essential Tremor Foundation, PO Box 14005, Lenexa, Kansas 66285-4005, (888) 387-3667 or (913) 341-3880. Their website is and their e-mail address is They can also provide a list of movement disorder specialists, who are neurologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of movement disorders, such as Essential Tremor and Parkinson's Disease.

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