Early Head Tremor in Essential Tremor: A Case Series and Commentary

  • Elan D. Louis
  • Funmi M Badejo
  • Ashley D Cristal
  • James Meyers
  • Nora Hernandez
  • Karen P Chen
  • Kelly V Naranjo
  • Jemin Park
  • Lorraine N Clark

Abstract

Background: Classically, the onset of head tremor in essential tremor (ET) patients follows that of hand tremor, such that there is a somatotopic spread of involved areas. Here we present a series of seven self-reportedly “unaffected” relatives of ET cases. These seven were clinically asymptomatic and had normal levels of arm tremor on examination, yet each evidenced a transient head wobble on examination. We estimate the prevalence of this phenotype within the two studies from which cases were ascertained.

Methods: ET cases and their self-reportedly affected and unaffected relatives, enrolled in two family studies, underwent a medical history and videotaped neurological examination.

Results: In seven self-reportedly “unaffected” relatives, a transient and subtle head wobble was seen, always during sustained phonation, speech, or reading aloud. Total tremor score (a measure of arm tremor) ranged from 5 to 12 (i.e., mild tremor within the range of normal). The prevalence of this phenotype of early head tremor was 3.7% in one study and 23.1% in the other.

Discussion: We present a series of seven individuals who had early head tremor in an evolving transition state from normal to ET. These cases raise a number of broad clinical, phenotypic, and pathophysiological issues about ET.