Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease l Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease


The key difference between essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease is that the essential tremor has an autosomal dominant trait whereas the Parkinson’s disease does not have such a pattern of inheritance. Also, the characteristic clinical feature of essential tremor is the bilateral, low amplitude tremor, prominently in the upper limbs, but Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder, and in the late stage, the patient can develop cognitive impairments as well. 

Essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease are both neurological conditions. The presence of tremors is the characteristic feature of these conditions.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Essential Tremor
3. What is Parkinson’s Disease
4. Similarities Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease
5. Side by Side Comparison – Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is a neurological disease with autosomal dominant inheritance. The development of bilateral, low amplitude tremor, prominently in the upper limbs, is a characteristic clinical feature of this disease. Also, there are associated head movements and voice changes as well.

Moreover, this condition can affect patients of any age. Nevertheless, the tremor progresses slowly but rarely becomes severely debilitating.

Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease l Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease

There is a poor response to treatment most of the time, and drug treatment is often not necessary. However, stereotactic thalamotomy is used in severe cases.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder characterized by a decline in the dopamine level of the brain. The cause of this condition still remains controversial. The risk of Parkinson’s disease significantly increases with advanced age. Familial inheritance of the disease has not yet been identified.

Pathology

The appearance of Lewy bodies and loss of dopaminergic neurons in pars compacta of the substantia nigra region of midbrain are the hallmark morphological changes in the Parkinson’s disease.

Clinical Features

  • Slow movements (bradykinesia/akinesia)
  • Resting tremor
  • Lead pipe rigidity of the limbs (identified during the clinical examination)
  • Stooped posture and shuffling gait
  • Speech becomes quiet, indistinct and flat
  • In the late stage of the disease, the patient can develop cognitive impairments as well

Diagnosis

There is no laboratory test for the exact identification of Parkinson’s disease. Therefore diagnosis is solely based on the signs and symptoms recognized during the clinical examination. MRI images appear to be normal most of the time.

Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease l Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease

Figure 01: Handwriting of a Parkinson’s Patient

Treatment

Firstly, it is important to educate the patient and the family about the condition. The use of drugs such as dopamine receptor agonists and levodopa, which restore the dopamine activity of the brain, can alleviate the motor symptoms. Also, it is necessary to appropriately manage sleep disturbances and psychotic episodes.

Dopamine antagonists such as neuroleptics can induce Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. Parkinsonism is the collective term to refer to this condition.

What is the Similarity Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease?

  • The presence of tremors characterizes both diseases.

What is the Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease?

Essential tremor is a neurological disease with autosomal dominant inheritance, which is characterized by the development of bilateral, low amplitude tremor prominently seen in the upper limbs. On the other hand, Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder characterized by a decline in the dopamine level of the brain.

Furthermore, essential tremors can affect patients of any age, but the peak incidence is in the early decades of life.  However, Parkinson’s usually occurs in the elderly people. Moreover, essential tremors have an autosomal dominant trait while Parkinson’s disease is not known to have a genetic trait. The below infographic presents more details on the difference between essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease.

Difference Between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease l Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease

Summary – Essential Tremor vs Parkinson’s Disease

Essential tremor is a neurological disease with autosomal dominant inheritance, which primarily characterizes the development of bilateral, low amplitude tremor (prominently seen in the upper limbs) whereas Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder characterizes a decline in the dopamine level of the brain. Essential tremors have an autosomal dominant inheritance, but Parkinson’s disease does not have such a genetic predisposition. This is the main difference between essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease.

Reference:

1. Kumar, Parveen J., and Michael L. Clark. Kumar & Clark clinical medicine. Edinburgh: W.B. Saunders, 2012. Print. Ser. 8.

Image Courtesy:

1.”8376271918″ by _DJ_ (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
2.”Writing by a Parkinson’s disease patient”By Jean-Martin Charcot (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia  

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