Could my father's hand tremor be Parkinson's disease?

3 answers | Last updated: Aug 18, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

The other night during dinner with my parents, I noticed that my father's right hand was trembling a lot. It shook even when he wasn't doing anything with it. Could he have Parkinson's disease?

Expert Answers

Kelly E. Lyons is a research associate professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and a member of the panel that authored the American Academy of Neurology's 2006 guidelines for treating advanced Parkinson's disease.

It's possible your father has Parkinson's disease, because a common early symptom is a tremor on one side of the body that occurs when the patient isn't trying to do anything. This is called a "resting" tremor, and it tends to go away when the patient starts doing things with the hand or leg that's shaky. Having a tremor like this warrants getting checked out by a neurologist or, preferably, a movement disorder specialist.

As part of the examination, the specialist will want to rule out other kinds of tremors, such as essential tremor, which generally starts out affecting both sides of the body. Essential tremor also occurs mostly during action: For instance, if a patient with essential tremor is trying to bring a cup to his mouth, it can be very difficult to do, because his hand is shaking.

To find a movement disorder specialist near you, go to the website of the National Parkinson Foundation or of . Both maintain an online directory of specialists that you can search.

Community Answers

Ladydawn answered...

Before your father goes directly to a neurologist specializing in motion disorder, please suggest that he see his primary care doctor. Resting or static tremor is a primary symptom of aging and therefore also a symptom of Parkinson's disease which mimics accelerated aging. But tremors can also be a result of cardiovascular issues and medication side effects or drug interactions. They can also be a sign of stress.

His primary care doctor should have a record of all medications your father is taking. If he/she doesn't, please ask your parents to compile such a list. This list includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements which he takes on a regular basis.

Another list that would be helpful is one which lists any symptoms he might have been esperiencing recently even though they were ascribed to something else or just ignored. For example loss of sense of smell can be an early indication of PD. Difficulty sleeping. depression, leg drag, change in hand writing can all be early signs of PD.

Diagnosis for Parkinson's disease is not state of the art yet; it is done through observation and patient history usually facilitated by the UPDRS (or the revised version) as well as lab tests to rule out other conditions.

It is good that you recognized this symptom. Early diagnosis is important in all medical conditions and especially so in PD as there are a few treatment options in early diagnosis one of which has been shown to slow progression.

Please read what you can find about treatment options so that you can provide additional printed matter for your parents to consider should the diagnosis indeed be Parkinson's. Your parents can decide with the doctor what course of medication seems best for them at this time.

Your parents are probably aware of the tremor you witnessed but were not be ready to take action. It may be your role to encourage them to make the appointment.

Best Wishes

A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband has had a tremor in his left hand for all of his adult life. Doctors said it was a benign tremor, one said he had too much adrelin and it caused it, we had all kinds of answers, all said absolutely no connection to Parkinsons. Well, let me tell you, the whole practice of Neurology is the most "I don't know" practice I have ever seen. Now, my husband has full blown Lewy Body Dementia, a form of Parkinsons. It took years and years to find out what was going on and we had so many mis diagnosis trips. If I knew then what I know now, we would have done many things differently, including retiring earlier and traveling and doing things we planned on but never got to do when this hit. I never dreamed it was Parkinsons and I never knew that there are forms of Parkinsons that are totally dibilitating. My husband is now in a memory care facility and to say the least is completly unable to do anything. It is so sad as we did put things off thinking we would do things but the last 10 years have been nothing but doctors, and hospitals--4 neurologists in 4 cities, 2 neurosurgeons and countless medical tests. One thing you should know about Parkinsons is that Lewy Body Dementia CAN be very similar to Alshimers. My husband cannot walk, his tremors are much worse, he has almost no short term memory and is in a state of confusion most of the time, not to mention a state of agitation. Please urge your father to start testing now and get answers keep going to second and third opinions if necessary so plans can be made. While he is healthy, urge him to not put off anything, as someday may not come. Sorry to be so mauldlin but I wish we had been given much more info about what Could happen and worst case scenerario. We did at least purchase long term care ins. and that is one thing I urge you to talk to your father about NOW.