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Shaky Hands, Alcohol and Drugs Relationship


Perhaps the shaking began recently. Or maybe it’s growing worse. It probably started gradually. It may have happened when you were stressed or angry. Or illness could have brought it on.

Whatever the cause, “tremor” is the name experts give to those shaky hands (and sometimes feet, too). They’re more common than you might think, and the causes and outcomes can be quite varied.

Essential Tremor

Of all the reasons to get the shakes, this is the most common. Your doctor may call it essential tremor (ET). It’s the most widespread disease of the nervous system. It usually starts in your hands, but it can move to your arms, head, voice, or other body parts.

ET is different because it affects your hands when they’re already moving. Most other forms of tremor take place when you’re still.

It could result from a change in your genes (your doctor may call this a mutation). That means if one of your parents has a tremor, you’re more likely to get one, too.

Toxins in the environment cause some cases. But more research is needed to better understand the connections.

Age is another risk factor. Although ET can happen at any age, it’s more likely in people over 40. Your odds go up as you get older.

ET isn’t life-threatening, but it can get more severe over time. Stress, fatigue, and too much caffeine can worsen it. At some point, eating, drinking, writing, and all the other daily tasks you do with your hands can become a bigger challenge.

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This condition can be hard to treat. There are medications, but none works consistently. Surgery is an option, as is a treatment called deep brain stimulation, in which doctors implant a device in your brain to help control the tremors. If shaky hands are a problem for you, ask your doctor if this might help.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Tremor is one of the first signs. If you weren’t too hooked, the shakes may last just a few days. If you drank a lot, or for a long time, they can go on for a year or even longer.

It Isn’t Always a Disease

Shaky hands don’t always mean you’re ill. Sometimes a tremor is your body’s a response to something:

Drugs: The most common culprits are medications that block a brain chemical called dopamine. It moves information from one part of your brain to another. These drugs are used to keep your mood even. The tremors will go away when you stop taking the medication.

B12 deficiency: Without it, your nervous system won’t work like it should. You can find it in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk products. If you’re getting so little that your hands shake, your doctor will give you a shot.

Stress: From financial and job worries to relationship problems and health concerns, stress worsens tremors. Intense anger, extreme hunger, or sleep deprivation can all make your hands shake. This is known as physiologic tremor.

Low blood sugar: Your doctor will call this hypoglycemia. It triggers your body’s natural stress response and makes you shaky.

An overactive thyroid: This gland is in your neck, just above your collarbone. When it’s in overdrive, your whole body speeds up. You may have trouble sleeping, your heart may beat faster, and your hands might shake.

Nerve damage: Injury, disease, or a problem with your central nervous system can also cause tremors. Your doctor will call this peripheral neuropathy. It can affect your hands and feet.

Because the causes and treatments vary widely for different types of tremors, it’s important to talk with your doctor about your history and symptoms.

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