14 Causes of Shaking Hands (Hand Tremors)

Written By: Dr. Anas Abdul Majeed

Dr. Anas Abdul Majeed is a Consultant in the Department of Neurology at the Medcare Hospital, Al Safa. He obtained his MBBS from the Govt Medical College under The University of Kerala and his MD (Internal Medicine) from the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, in India.

Updated On:January 24, 2024

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 14 Causes of Shaking Hands (Hand Tremors)

What are Hand Tremors?

Hand tremor is the medical name for trembling hands or hands that shake uncontrollably. Hand tremors could be a sign of a physical ailment or a mental condition.

Your hands may tremble briefly if you experience anxiety or stress. If your hand or hands start to shake frequently, you should consult a doctor. Depending on the underlying reason for the shaking, a treatment option may be offered.

 Symptoms of Hand Tremors

Hand tremors can happen when at rest, such as those of (Parkinson's disease. They may also happen when you are doing certain activities. Signs of hand tremors that accompany activity are described as follows:

  • Postural Tremor: Hands shake involuntarily when extended.
  • Intentional Tremor: Hands shake when you reach toward a target (i.e., keyhole to unlock your door).
  • Task-specific Tremor: Hands shake as you engage in a task (i.e., writing).

Causes of Hand Tremors

Tremors can occur naturally or as a result of taking certain medications, having a neurological disorder, or other health issues. Here are a few potential tremor triggers:

  •  Enhanced Physiological Tremor

An even more pronounced type of physiologic tremor is called enhanced physiologic tremor (EPT), which typically affects the hands and fingers. EPT in some persons may result from the following:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Fatigue or Sleep deprivation
  • Consuming too much caffeine
  • Intense exercise

Except in cases when a person's job or other activities depend on fine motor coordination, enhanced physiological tremor does not require medical attention.

  •  Neurological Conditions

Generally, a problem in the deep regions of the brain that regulate movement is the cause of tremors. The following neurological disorders can result in trembling hands:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): The brain and spinal cord are both affected by this degenerative condition, which makes it challenging for the nerves to transmit information. A lot of MS sufferers tremble to some extent when a disease affects the pathways of the central nervous system that control movement.
  • Parkinson's disease (PD): This condition results in the death of nerve cells in a region of the brain important for motor movement. Most persons with PD experience tremors, whether they are resting, active, or mixed. When under stress or experiencing powerful emotions, shaking may become more noticeable.
  • Stroke-induced Tremors: Depending on the location that was affected, a person may have different tremors after having a stroke. Resting tremors are brought on by damage to the basal ganglia, whereas intention tremors are brought on by damage to the cerebellum.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Post-traumatic tremor (PTT) is the term used to describe tremor caused by a TBI. PTT results from injury to particular brain regions in charge of the movement. These vibrations are not typical.
  • Dystonia: Dystonia is a movement disorder in which uncontrollable muscle contractions lead to unnatural, repeated postures and movements due to the brain's basal ganglia malfunctioning.  
  •  Health Conditions

Shaky hands can also be brought on by the following medical conditions:

  • Mental disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression
  • Inherited degenerative diseases, such as fragile X syndrome or hereditary ataxia
  • Misuse or withdrawal from alcohol
  • Mercury toxicity
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Medications

Finally, hand tremors can also be brought on by some medicines. Examples comprise medication for asthma, psychiatric medication, and seizure medication, among others.

When to see a doctor for Hand Tremors?

If you experience frequent episodes of trembling in your hands, it's crucial to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. If you have any of the following symptoms in addition to your shaky hands, get immediate medical attention:

  • Alterations to consciousness
  • Vision changes
  • Uncontrollable trembling
  • Balance problems
  • Adjustments to body temperature
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Speaking or communicating challenges

Additionally, you should seek medical assistance if you have any concerns or if your hand shaking is severe, chronic, or ongoing.

 Hand Tremors Risk Factors

The following are some known tremor risk factors:

  • Altered genes. Familial tremor, a hereditary form of essential tremor, is an autosomal dominant condition. To pass on the disease, only one parent's mutated gene is required. A person has a 50% probability of having tremors if one of their parents has the disorder.
  • Age. People over the age of 40 are more likely to have tremors.

Hand Tremors Complications

Although tremor is not life-threatening, symptoms frequently get worse with time. If the tremors worsen, it could be challenging to:

  • Hold a glass or cup without spilling anything
  • Eating without an uncontrollable shake
  • Shave or put on makeup
  • Speak if your voice box is impacted
  • Write clearly

Hand Tremors Diagnosis

The diagnosis of hand tremors necessitates a thorough physical examination and evaluation of your medical history. In case the origin of the condition has not been determined, the doctor may ask for lab testing to check for thyroid issues or a brain scan to check for signs of a past stroke.

 Hand Tremors Treatment

Some tremors can be completely removed or significantly diminished. You might only need to reduce your caffeine intake or learn to control your stress if you have increased physiologic tremors. Tremors brought on by thyroid issues or alcohol withdrawal may be lessened with the treatment of these conditions. A change in medication may be necessary to stop medication-induced tremors. Some tremors, such as those of multiple sclerosis, strokes, or brain tumors, are irreversible.

In addition to medications, physical therapy and occupational therapy are also potential treatment plans depending on the cause of the hand tremors.

References

Anouti, A., & Koller, W. C. (1995). Tremor disorders. Diagnosis and management. Western Journal of Medicine162(6), 510.

Deuschl, G., Raethjen, J., Hellriegel, H., & Elble, R. (2011). Treatment of patients with essential tremor. The Lancet Neurology10(2), 148-161.

Louis, E. D. (2001). Essential tremor. New England Journal of Medicine345(12), 887-891.

Smaga, S. (2003). Tremor. American Family Physician68(8), 1545-1552.

 

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