Review

Neurotherapeutics

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 128-138

First online:

The Treatment of Tremor

  • Susanne A. SchneiderAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, University-Hospital Schleswig-Holstein
  • , Günther DeuschlAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, University-Hospital Schleswig-Holstein Email author 

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Abstract

Tremor is a hyperkinetic movement disorder characterized by rhythmic oscillations of one or more body parts. It can be disabling and may impair quality of life. Various etiological subtypes of tremor are recognized, with essential tremor (ET) and Parkinsonian tremor being the most common. Here we review the current literature on tremor treatment regarding ET and head and voice tremor, as well as dystonic tremor, orthostatic tremor, tremor due to multiple sclerosis (MS) or lesions in the brainstem or thalamus, neuropathic tremor, and functional (psychogenic) tremor, and summarize main findings. Most studies are available for ET and only few studies specifically focused on other tremor forms. Controlled trials outside ET are rare and hence most of the recommendations are based on a low level of evidence. For ET, propranolol and primidone are considered drugs of first choice with a mean effect size of approximately 50 % tremor reduction. The efficacy of topiramate is also supported by a large double-blind placebo-controlled trial, while other drugs have less supporting evidence. With a mean effect size of about 90 % deep brain stimulation in the nucleus ventralis intermedius or the subthalamic nucleus may be the most potent treatment; however, there are no controlled trials and it is reserved for severely affected patients. Dystonic limb tremor may respond to anticholinergics. Botulinum toxin improves head and voice tremor. Gabapentin and clonazepam are often recommended for orthostatic tremor. MS tremor responds only poorly to drug treatment. For patients with severe MS tremor, thalamic deep brain stimulation has been recommended. Patients with functional tremor may benefit from antidepressants and are best be treated in a multidisciplinary setting. Several tremor syndromes can already be treated with success. But new drugs specifically designed for tremor treatment are needed. ET is most likely covering different entities and their delineation may also improve treatment. Modern study designs and long-term studies are needed.

Keywords

Essential tremor Dystonic tremor Propranolol Primidone Topiramate