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YOUR HEALTH: A new way to stop hand tremors

DELRAY BEACH, Florida – You could mistake it for Parkinson's Disease, but it isn't.

Essential Tremors can imprison you in a body that won't let your hands stop shaking

"'They've affected me since I was in my 30`s," explained Harriet Marksfield, talking about the tremors that cause her hands to shake uncontrollably.

"I couldn't carry a cup, a full cup of coffee to the table."

"Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder," explained Dr. Travis Tierney, a neurosurgeon with Sperling Medical Group.  "It's about three times more common than Parkinson's disease."

The condition can be hereditary and despite medication gets worse over time.

Now, new technology by InsighTec uses MRI guided focused ultrasound to stop the tremors.  Treating them where they start: in the brain.

"It's focused in the precise spot in the brain where the tremor cells are and that's in part of the brain called the thalamus," Dr. Tierney explained.

While the patient is in the special MRI, an ultrasound beam targets the specific area of the brain causing the tremor, destroying it.

"Accurately within three to four millimeters destroy a tiny amount of brain tissue that you don't really need but that's causing the side effects of the tremors," said Dr. Dan Sperling, the medical director at Sperling Medical Group.

Patients are awake during the procedure and they can see it working in real time.

"So we can actually see our results immediately, and the patient sees it, which is very powerful," Dr. Sperling explained.

"You can expect 70 to 80% tremor reduction so in some cases you may what's called get tremor arrest, and the tremor's gone," said Dr. Tierney.

Right now, the procedure is only FDA approved for treating one side of the brain.   This is why Dr. Tierney does the dominant hand.

It can cost about $25,000, but  InsighTec says it is working to get Medicare and US insurance companies to cover the treatment.

SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Symptoms will begin gradually, usually on one side of the body. Tremors become worse with movement, and usually occur in the hands first, affecting one or both hands. They may include a yes or no motion of the head, and can be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine, or temperature extremes. Patients with significant functional impairment may opt for some form of treatment. Options include non-medical therapy, medication, and sometimes even surgery. Tremors can sometimes be reduced by weighting the limb, usually by applying wrist weights. Non-medical relaxation techniques may also be effective in controlling tremors, since it can be aggravated by stress.   (Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/movement_disorders/conditions/essential_tremor.html)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.