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Getting a Grip on Tremors: October 24, 2012

Leo Oknefski is a hands on guy.

“I gotta get up here like this so it’s steady,” says Leo Oknefski, has tremors.

Nothing is as easy as it once was. Take a look at Oknefski’s hands.

“It’s more on than it usually is,” says Oknefski.

“If I get nervous it can be a little worse,” says Oknefski.

He’s one of an estimated 10-million people who suffer from a tremor disorder.

“As far as I know it’s hereditary because my mother had it,” says Oknefski.

Doctors find many times there is a genetic link to this neurological disorder.

“It’s a movement disorder and actually the most common movement disorder. In other words shaking up and down of ones hand usually, but it can involve the head, it can involve the trunk or the voice as well. It usually is hereditary,” says Dr. Amanda Avila, neurologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Tremors in themselves are harmless, but they can be troubling. Think of getting dressed, eating, driving a car, even signing your name-without a steady hand. For many it’s reason enough to seek help.

“If the tremor is very mild we usually suggest occupational therapy. They have some adaptive devices that can be helpful; heavier pens, heavier forks and knives. Then there are medications that we use to treat tremors,” says Dr. Avila.

Sedatives, blood pressure meds and those used in seizure disorders have been shown to help.  A newer technique is deep brain stimulation. A surgical treatment that implants a pacemaker, like device into the brain.

“This surgery actually interrupts the abnormal circuitry in the brain that’s sending those incorrect signals to the hands,” says Dr. Avila.

Okneski rethinks his every move.

“Handwriting, I have to put one hand against the other,” says Okneski.

But modern medicine is helping many others get a grip on their tremors.