Tremor differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Zehra Malik, M.B.B.S[2]


Tremor must be differentiated from diseases that cause involuntary movement: myoclonus, clonus, asterixis, and epilepsia partialis continua. The cause of tremor must also be differentiated from other conditions that cause tremor: essential tremor, physiological tremor, Parkinson's disease, cerebellar tremor, orthostatic tremor.

Differentiating Tremor from other Diseases

Common Cause of Tremor Differentiating Feature of Tremor Main Feature of Disease
Essential tremor Postural Tremor - Frequency 4–12 Hz, Bilateral onset gait ataxia, vestibulo-cerebellar involvement, reduced by alcohol, family history, stress/fatigue can increase tremor amplitude, increases with voluntary movements
Parkinson’s disease Resting Tremor - Unilateral onset Bradykinesia, micrographia, stooped posture, ataxia, rigidity, imbalance, depression, apathy, decreases with voluntary movements
Physiologic Tremor Postural tremor - High frequency 8–10 Hz, low amplitude, irregular oscillations Tremor occurs while maintaining a posture and mostly disappears if eyes are closed or a load is placed on the muscles. Subtle innate tremor normally present in the general population.
Enhanced Physiologic Tremor Increased amplitude Physiologic tremor enhanced due to fatigue, sleep deprivation, drugs, endocrine disorders, caffeine, stress.
Cerebellar Tremor Intention tremor - Low frequency <4 Hz Occurs in multiple sclerosis, stroke, brainstem tumor, or cerebellar trauma. May feature ataxia, dysmetria, dysdiadochokinesia, and dysarthria.
Drug Induced Tremor Can enhance rest, action, postural tremors Amiodarone, bronchodilators, lithium, metoclopramide, neuroleptics, theophylline, valproate
Orthostatic Tremor Essential tremor variant, high frequency 14 Hz-18 Hz Occurs in the legs on standing and is relieved by sitting down
Holmes tremor Combination of rest, action, and postural tremors, Frequency 2Hz-5Hz Mostly due to vascular lesion in mesencephalic, thalamic or both regions.


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  2. Deuschl G, Elble R (2009). "Essential tremor--neurodegenerative or nondegenerative disease towards a working definition of ET". Mov Disord. 24 (14): 2033–41. doi:10.1002/mds.22755. PMID 19750493.
  3. Smaga S (2003). "Tremor". Am Fam Physician. 68 (8): 1545–52. PMID 14596441.
  4. Crawford P, Zimmerman EE (2011). "Differentiation and diagnosis of tremor". Am Fam Physician. 83 (6): 697–702. PMID 21404980.