ms and hand shaking?

Have your hands been shaking or trembling lately for no reason and you’re afraid this might mean the start of multiple sclerosis?

What is MS?

• An autoimmune disease in which the immune system mounts an attack on the central nervous system: brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

• Nerve fibers are surrounded and insulated by a fatty substance called myelin.

• The immune attack harms the myelin.

• The damage or destruction of the myelin and/or nerve fibers disrupts or ceases the signals within the central nervous system.

• As a result, many symptoms are associated with multiple sclerosis.

• Tremors, trembling and shaking are among those symptoms.

If multiple sclerosis is on the radar of someone with health anxiety, then any trembling or shaking part of their body will induce fear of this disease.

Ironically, if the anxiety is severe enough, this itself will cause trembling or even aggressive shaking – including that of the hands and arms.

Shaking, Trembling Hands and MS

“Hand tremor can be related to many common conditions,” says Mitzi J. Williams, MD, clinical neurologist with Morehouse School of Medicine, an MS specialist and clinical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

“Most people have a very subtle tremor in the hands. This can be exaggerated or worsened by anxiety.

“Essential tremor also causes trembling hands. It often runs in families and is improved by alcohol intake (this is not considered a recommended treatment for the condition).

“Additionally, metabolic abnormalities (liver disease, alcohol withdrawal or other substance abuse withdrawal) can cause tremor.”

Another cause of trembling is a side effect from certain antipsychotic (major tranquilizer) drugs.

Dr. Williams continues, “People with MS do often report tremor in the hands, but it is not usually a presenting or first symptom of the disease.

“If there are other neurologic signs like numbness, weakness or visual loss in combination with tremor, then MS may be the cause of symptoms.

“If anyone has new neurologic symptoms, they should be seen and evaluated by a neurologist for diagnosis.”

The longer that you’ve been experiencing shaking of your hands – along with NO accompanying or associated symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness or pain – the more reassured you can be that the cause is probably not serious.

Nevertheless, as Dr. Williams advises, persistent symptoms need to be investigated by your doctor.

Mitzi Williams, MD

Dr. Williams is author of “MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis,” available on Amazon. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology.