Are Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Connected?

It’s a common misdiagnosis. Someone notices a tremor in their hands or body and automatically they think they have Parkinson’s disease. Some have said their doctor prescribed a Parkinson’s disease medication for them until they discovered the correct diagnosis was essential tremor (ET). And sometimes a person is diagnosed with ET when they are actually in the early stages of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease and ET will always be connected because of their similar physical symptoms. There is more public awareness about Parkinson’s, but ET is eight times more common. At the International Essential Tremor Foundation, we hear from individuals who have both conditions.

So what are the differences? How can you learn more? One way is to take part in the IETF’s upcoming FREE teleconference, “ET vs. Parkinson’s: How Do They Differ?” Mark your calendar to join us:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
12 p.m. pacific time
1 p.m. mountain time
2 p.m. central time
3 p.m. eastern time

Teleconference Speaker
Dr. Holly Shill

Dr. Holly Shill, chair of the IETF medical advisory board, will be the teleconference speaker. Dr. Shill is the director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Her expertise includes the diagnosis and treatment of involuntary movements, essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, dystonia, and ataxia. IETF Executive Director Patrick McCartney will be the teleconference moderator.

How Can You Participate in the Teleconference?
If you’ve never participated in a teleconference before, don’t worry, it’s easy! The entire conference is conducted over the phone; no internet or computer is required. You can listen in by yourself, or host a teleconference party in your home and put us on speaker phone. (Then you can have your own group discussion afterward!)

But first, give us a call, 1-888-387-3667, or go online to register. Reservations are required because our capacity for callers is limited. When you register, you’ll receive a call in number and conference code. And, you’ll have the opportunity to give us a question or two that you would like to have answered during the teleconference. Here are a few questions that have already been submitted:

  • Is Parkinson’s more in the feet and ET in the hands?
  • Does ET and/or Parkinson’s affect your memory?
  • What percentage of people with ET develop Parkinson’s?

Our Past Teleconferences Are Online
The IETF conducts several teleconferences each year as part of its educational offering to people with essential tremor. All teleconferences are recorded and posted on our website so anyone can log on anytime to listen to past ones.

We also host educational forums several times a year in cities throughout the U.S. Our next forum is scheduled for June 23, 2018 in Minneapolis. You can read more about this online.

The IETF’s goal is to provide hope to the essential tremor community through awareness, education, support, and research. These teleconferences are one way we carry out the “education” part of our mission.

We know that by providing educational programs, we can continue to communicate the latest information about essential tremor. Join us on April 18!

High School Student Develops App to Detect Parkinson’s and ET

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High school student Erin Smith has developed an app that helps to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and possibly other neurological conditions through facial recognition. She serves as an example of how young people are stepping up to invest themselves in making a difference in the lives of others through their ingenuity and motivation. Here is her story.

By Erin Smith.
Senior at Shawnee Mission West High School
Overland Park, Kansas

About two years ago, I was watching a video by the Michael J. Fox Foundation when I noticed that whenever Michael J. Fox or another Parkinson’s disease patient would smile or laugh, it came off as emotionally distant. Further, as I talked to Parkinson’s caretakers and clinicians, they reported similar observations in their loved ones years before diagnosis. As I read medical studies, I found that the often overlooked sections of the brain that undergo the earliest changes in Parkinson’s patients are the same parts involved in the formation of facial expressions.

My mind instantly went back to a TV show I had watched as a child called Lie to Me,  where a deception expert would solve crimes by studying facial expressions to determine if people were lying. I wondered if facial expressions could have similar health care implications and provide external manifestations of neurological pathology. 

FacePrint App is Born
I then launched a study in partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation Trial Finder to expand my research on a national level. Using the data I collected, I developed FacePrint, a tool to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s disease using the early stage facial muscle indicators that I identified. FacePrint provides an inexpensive, remote tool for early stage Parkinson’s disease, requiring only a computer and webcam. Further, FacePrint is compatible with facial recognition used by Snapchat and Facebook, creating a selfie that could save your life.

Differentiating Between Parkinson’s and ET
However, after developing FacePrint, I quickly began to notice distinct facial movement differences in patients with other neurological diseases. I started formulating the idea that facial behavioral biomarkers could non-invasively differentiate between Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor patients. My new mission has become to create a robust, differential diagnostic and monitoring tool for Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor patients. It is my hope that developing accurate diagnostic and monitoring systems for these two diseases will lead to improved, earlier treatment options and ultimately a cure.

Ridding the World of Neurological Disorders
Beyond my goals for my research from a medical perspective, I also hope to create a source of hope.

I firmly believe that change occurs on an individual level. It is one person doing one thing different one time. It is one person caring about one topic and doing everything that he or she can to make a difference in that area. It is one person taking one step forward one time.

I believe that the journey towards a cure for Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease will follow the same pattern. However, while change occurs on an individual basis, impact occurs when we all come together to leverage that change. My work is just one piece of the larger puzzle. We must all come together and put the pieces together. It will take everyone devoting their time, efforts, and stories to lead to a day when Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor are cured conditions. Although it is easy to become discouraged, my research has filled me with a deep sense of optimism for our future. There are researchers, patients, caretakers, clinicians, and everyday citizens around the world who are making remarkable progress and strides in this field. We are not marching alone. Rather, we are marching hand-in-hand, striving towards the day when our collective impact will create a world without neurological disorders.

YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN ERIN’S STUDY

Erin is expanding her original research to include essential tremor and persons with no neurological disorders to determine if this test (her app) can easily differentiate between the two, possibly saving patients years of misdiagnosis. The study takes about 10-15 minutes and requires a computer with a webcam. It typically works best on Chrome, which can be easily downloaded online if not already installed (see link below). If you have ET or Parkinson’s Disease please take this test and please encourage your friends and family members without either disease to participate as well.

ET Has Affected 5 Generations in My Family

By Shari Finsilver,
VP of the IETF Board of Directors

Increasing awareness about essential tremor (ET) has been my passion for almost 20 years.  But, I must confess … I was not very open about my tremors prior to this. In fact, I did everything imaginable to hide them, even from my parents!

My courage came from all the members of my support group. It is often said that when we volunteer, we get much more back than we give. Well, that was so true in my case when I decided to start a support group in Michigan in 2000. I marveled at the candor, courage, and self-pride in many of those members and, eventually, decided to follow their lead to become more open about my own ET.

Joining the IETF Board
When I was invited to join the IETF Board of Directors in 2001, I found another platform that I could use to further raise awareness, while also getting involved in education programs, fundraising, and research. I am committed to expanding the work of the IETF, the most recognized organization helping ET patients and families.

ET began challenging my life at 11 years old. I’ve heard it said that those of us with ET are much more intelligent and creative. Well, I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that … but I did become very creative in developing ways to cope with these troubling tremors! When the IETF compiled a list of coping tips, I was able to share all of mine with all of you.

The Choice to Have DBS Surgery
After having lived with increasingly challenging ET for almost 40 years, I decided to have deep-brain stimulation (DBS) surgery in 1999. DBS changed my life.

ET has, so far as I know, affected five generations in my family. I will continue to do everything in my power to help those of us with ET get more effective medical treatments, increase awareness so the public doesn’t misjudge and label us, better educate the medical community, and fund research that will discover a cure.

Join Us to Help Raise ET Awareness
I hope I can count on each of you to do something that helps the ET community. So many great ideas are listed on the IETF website. If all of us raise our voices about ET, we can educate the world.

 

 

Being a Child with ET is Like Being a Tiny Sapling in a Windstorm

By Allison Dyke,
Student at Kuyper College

Allison Dyke

Having essential tremor is like being a tree with leaves shaking uncontrollably in the wind. Even though your roots are strong, you are unable to control the movement of your branches.
However, being a child with essential tremor is like being a tiny sapling stuck in a powerful windstorm. You are not fully developed and your roots have not been completely planted.

ET Diagnosis
Since the age of four, I have battled with essential tremor. My shaky hands and legs made tasks such as eating, tying shoes, and riding bikes difficult to complete. I was just learning how to do these activities, which can be challenging without having a movement disorder. While these tasks were strenuous, the hardest part about being a child with essential tremor was other children and adults jumped to conclusions without understanding what essential tremor is.

“She’s just stubborn,” was often coldly stated to my parents as an explanation of why I was failing at making a perfect bow with my shoelaces. If I wasn’t being “stubborn” I must be either nervous or cold. Fine motor skills were frustrating to master and I became withdrawn from participating in physical activities. It was hard to understand why I couldn’t do what other children my age could do. With supportive parents, I was encouraged to never give up. The saying at my house is, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Soon I found an activity where shaking didn’t matter, swimming. It helped rebuild the confidence that this disorder had taken away. I found ways around difficult tasks, such as using assistive devices to improve my penmanship or supporting my elbow when applying makeup. It was clear that the physical and emotional effects of essential tremor were not going to dictate my future.

Connecting with the IETF
Then at sixteen, I discovered the International Essential Tremor Foundation, and wish I would have found them sooner. Their website provided informational downloads that I gave to my teachers and school administrators, so they could better understand this disorder. I connected with other kids my age who were going through the same experiences. IETF encouraged me to reach out to my community by organizing awareness walks and starting a support group. And they provided me with a college scholarship. With their support, I have met wonderful people who understand what having tremors is all about and I know I am not alone.

Now I’m nineteen and people still ask if I’m cold or nervous. But, I’ve learned that sharing my experience and educating others about essential tremor gives me an opportunity to explain that this condition is not just for older adults, but impacts young people as well. An estimated 10 million people in the United States are affected by this condition, yet very few have heard of it or understand it’s impact. Through awareness, I’m no longer a tiny sapling; I am strong oak supported by a dense forest away from the wind.

Editor’s Note
Allison is one of thousands of children and young adults around the world who struggle to live normal lives with essential tremor. She is a former IETF Scholarship Recipient. The scholarship program is one of many support programs conducted by the IETF. Your donations help support these programs and people with essential tremor. Donate today. 

New Year, New Opportunities

Patrick McCartney
Executive Director

As we kick off 2018, we are excited about the New Year and the opportunities to promote our mission to provide hope to the essential tremor (ET) community worldwide through awareness, education, support, and research.

The IETF is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018. We will kick off the celebration in March, which also happens to be National Essential Tremor Awareness month. There are a variety of ways for you to advocate for more ET awareness and education in your community. To learn more about how you can get involved here.

When we ask ET patients what they would like to see the IETF focus its efforts on, one subject comes up consistently: research to help find a dedicated treatment(s) for ET and, hopefully, someday a cure.

With the generous support of our donors,
we have been able to fund more than
$750,000 in ET research.

 

If you would like to learn more about the studies your donations have funded and the results they have achieved, you can find more information here.

Also, there are several clinical trials currently taking place that focus on ET-specific medications and wearable devices. If you are interested in participating in one of these trials check out the list of programs on the IETF website. You can also visit www.clinicaltrials.gov for easy access to free information on clinical studies for a wide range of conditions including ET.

Another great way to get involved is through a local support group. The IETF currently has more than 60 support groups around the world. We have a listing of all the supports groups on our website here. Or take part in our online support group through Facebook.

If you can’t find a support group in your area and Facebook isn’t your thing, we encourage you to consider starting a support group. We have all the tools to get you started and help you promote the meetings.

As always, we thank you for your support of the IETF and the ET community. The IETF has so many resources to share with patients, doctors, family members, and caregivers. We hope you will spread the word and help us continue to educate people on the most common movement disorder in the world.

 

 

Share Your ET Stories with Me

Hello to everyone in the essential tremor community!

I am new to the International Essential Tremor Foundation and wanted to introduce myself. I am the new marketing and communications manager. My role involves development of messages and stories to educate the public about essential tremor and the impact it has on more than 10 million people nationwide. I serve as editor of our magazine, Tremor Talk, and our Tremor Gram enewsletter. I oversee our social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, and manage our website, among other responsibilities.

I must confess I had never heard of ET before I applied for this position. How could that be? It impacts so many people and yet I was not aware. But I am catching up. Each day I read and hear stories from people of all ages who are living with ET. Just this week I was reviewing the applications from our scholarship recipients and was in awe of their positive outlooks, and also saddened by what they have had to endure. One student was diagnosed at age six, so he has had little experience of NOT having ET. One is a mother of three who said her biggest challenge has been answering her children when they ask, “Will I shake like that when I grow up?”

I am proud to work for an organization that is serving the ET community with awareness and education initiatives, and support, like scholarships. And last year we donated $75,000 toward research initiatives to further better treatment options for ET.

The learning will continue for me, and I am asking all of you for your support in this area. I would not be able to do my work without the ET community at large who share their stories of hope, frustration and, sometimes despair. No, some stories are not happy ones, but these are the ones that may resonate with others who are battling each day. I will do my best to share these stories and keep the lines of communication open. And, I look forward to the day when I can write that story about the breakthrough in research that will help everyone. I know it’s coming . . . keep the faith. . . and keep in touch with me.

I look forward to hearing from all of you out there. Write to me at tammy@essentialtremor.org.

 

 

The IETF visits Ohio

Cleveland MarriottJoin me, Dr. Walter and Dr. Miller on Saturday morning, April 5, 2014 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Cleveland Airport Marriott to learn more about essential tremor. We’ll discuss the diagnosis process for ET, what treatments are currently available, and what is going on in ET research. Plus, we’ll have a special presentation on occupational therapy and assistive devices.

This is one ET presentation you are not going to want to miss. And it’s free to everyone who wants to learn more, so bring your friends and family along. Just visit www.essentialtremor.org/seminars for registration information and driving directions. I look forward to meeting you!

The Power of Pets

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Because the symptoms of essential tremor worsen during times of stress/anxiety, it is important to find healthy methods of combating anxiety. One way to alleviate anxiety is to become a pet owner.

Studies have found:

-People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.

-Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

-Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

Also, pets add structure and routine to your day. Regardless of how depressed or anxious you feel, your pet will require daily feedings, exercise and affection. Pets offer the opportunity to put your anxiety aside and focus on providing a loving, comfortable home for your four-legged friend.

Shelters throughout the country are always full of wonderful cats and dogs in need of a forever home. If a pet would fit into your lifestyle, do yourself and a lucky animal a favor-Adopt a pet!

Read stories of IETF members who are proud pet owners here.

Phase III of Focused Ultrasound Trial Begins

 

Dr. W. Jeffrey Elias photo

Dr. Jeffrey Elias and the ExAblate

The first patient has been treated as part of a Phase III trial evaluating the success and safety of treatment using the ExAblate Neuro on essential tremor patients. The study builds on promising pilot studies demonstrating the preliminary safety and effectiveness of MR guided focused ultrasound technology. Read about Phase I of the trial here.

The results of this trial are expected to support a submission of the ExAblate Neuro to the FDA for Pre-Market Approval.

InSightec, makers of the ExAblate Neuro, will be partnering with BIRD (US-Israel Binational Industry R&D) and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation for this trial.

Find information on registering for this and other essential tremor studies at clinicaltrials.gov.

Joy Schaaf in the News!

Recently we got this great news from one of our most supportive voices and ardent supporter – Joy Schaaf. We congratulate Joy on her great video and all the support she has provided in the last two years. For more about Joy visit, http://www.essentialtremor.org/read.asp?docid=907 and her story appears 3/4 the way down the page.

Dear IETF and Friends,
Joy Schaaf is at it again. Spreading awareness through a skit. Ohio has a 4-H Health and Safety Skit Competition. Joy and her sister Hope wrote a skit about her essential tremors. They won at county level and then again at regional level. Tomorrow they will be attending the Ohio State Fair for the final round in the competition. Last year it was taped and put on the internet. We are hoping it will be taped again. If she wins and if it is taped, we will let you know where you can watch it. Information from your website was very helpful in the writing of this skit and all information obtained was sited correctly.
Sincerely,
Teresa Schaaf

They didn’t win, but they did an excellent job! You can watch the video online at the following link: http://www.ohiochannel.org/medialibrary/Media.aspx?fileId=139803. The skit “Essential Tremors” is halfway through all the videos at 47:45 min. Check it out!
Teresa