What's Causing My Loved One's Hand Tremors?

Nov 13, 2023
What's Causing My Loved One's Hand Tremors?
You notice that your loved one’s hands are starting to shake and you want to know whether to be concerned. Here, we explore the many possible causes of hand tremors and some good next steps.

Perhaps you notice a slight tremor when your loved one's hands are at rest or maybe it’s a shake that develops when they’re trying to use a key. Whatever the scenario, the hand tremor is a new development and you’re wondering whether there's cause for concern.

As neurology experts, our team here at Gill Neuroscience, headed up by board-certified neurologist Dr. Paul Gill, has considerable experience helping to diagnose and manage hand tremors in our patients.

Here’s a brief synopsis of hand tremors, some of the more common causes of the condition, and whether you should seek help.

The characteristics of the tremor

You might think that a tremor is a tremor, but there are differences that can help us pinpoint the underlying cause of the shaky hands in your loved one.

For example, we first want to know whether the hand tremor is a rest tremor or action tremor. Do your loved one’s hands shake when they aren’t using them? Or does the tremor only come on when they make a voluntary muscle movement.

If the tremor is related to action, we can further break it down into subsets, including:

  • Postural tremor, such as holding their hands out
  • Intention tremor, like when they're trying to put a key on the slot
  • Task-specific tremor, such as when they write

As you can see, these are subtle distinctions, which is why it’s important to seek the help of a neurologist like Dr. Gill who can decode your loved one’s tremor.

Common causes of hand tremors

There are many reasons why your loved one’s hand(s) might shake, and we’ve gathered some of the more common culprits here:

Essential tremor

This is a prevalent movement disorder that most often manifests as a shake in both hands and arms without any other symptoms. In 50% to 70% of cases, the essential tremor is inherited and often appears early in life.

Parkinson’s disease

One of the earliest signs of Parkinson's disease is a rest tremor in one hand (or leg or foot) that often progresses to include both sides. Not everyone who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease develops this type of tremor, but the involuntary quivering affects 80% of people with the condition.

Cerebellar tremor

If there’s damage in your loved one’s brain, due to trauma, stroke, or a condition like multiple sclerosis, they can develop a tremor in their hands. These tremors are often action tremors that show up when your loved one is using their hands and/or arms.

Of course, there are other conditions that can lead to shaky hands, such as alcohol or drug withdrawal, certain medications, or simply drinking too much caffeine.

The best way to figure out whether your loved one’s shaking hands are worrisome is to come see us for a full evaluation.

To get started, please call our office in Houston, Texas, at 832-912-7777, or use our online request form to schedule an appointment.