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People with essential tremor may have increased risk of dementia

ANI Mar 08, 2024

According to research, people with essential tremor, a movement disease characterised by involuntary shaking, maybe three times more likely to develop dementia than the general population.

The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 76th Annual Meeting, which will be held both in Denver and online from April 13-18, 2024.

Essential tremor is the most common tremor ailment, even more prevalent than Parkinson's disease. In addition to arm and hand tremors, individuals may experience uncontrollable shaking of the head, jaw, and voice.

"While many people living with essential tremor experience mild tremor, in some individuals, the tremor can be quite severe," said study author Elan D. Louis, MD, MSc, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Not only do tremors affect a person's ability to complete daily tasks such as writing and eating, our study suggests that people with essential tremors also have an increased risk of developing dementia."

The study involved 222 people with essential tremors who had an average age of 79 at the start of the study. They took thinking and memory tests to determine whether they had normal cognitive skills, mild cognitive impairment, or dementia at the start of the study.

Participants then had follow-up exams every 1.5 years for an average of five years.

Of this group, 168 people had normal cognitive skills, 35 had mild cognitive impairment and 19 had dementia at the start of the study.

During the study, 59 developed mild cognitive impairment and 41 developed dementia.

Researchers then compared the rate at which people developed mild cognitive impairment and dementia, as well as the prevalence of these conditions, to the rates and prevalence of the general population. They also compared participants to the rates and prevalence of people with Parkinson's disease.

Researchers found 19% of participants had or developed dementia during the study, and each year an average of 12% of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment went on to develop dementia.

These rates were three times higher than the rates in the general population. However, the rates were lower than those seen in people with Parkinson's disease, a population for which dementia was more prevalent.

Researchers also found that 27% of participants had or developed mild cognitive impairment during the study, a rate almost double that of the rate of 14.5% for the general population, but less than the rate of 40% for people with Parkinson's disease.

"While the majority of people with essential tremor will not develop dementia, our findings provide the basis for physicians to educate people with essential tremor and their families about the heightened risk, and any potential life changes likely to accompany this diagnosis," Louis said.

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