Why am I shaking?
Shaky hands or other involuntary movements can be scary. You may wonder: “Could I have Parkinson’s disease?” The reality is that most involuntary shaking is not caused by Parkinson’s. Let’s take a look at shakiness and some common causes.
When you experience shaking or trembling due to your muscles making uncontrolled contractions, it’s known as a tremor. Most tremors happen in the hands, but they can occur in the arms, torso, legs, head and even vocal cords. There are many categories of tremor, but most are either resting tremors or action tremors. Resting tremors occur when muscles are relaxed, such as when your hands are resting on your lap. Action tremors happen alongside voluntary muscle contractions, such as when you are writing, holding out your arms or making a fist. Tremors can happen on their own or be a symptom of another condition.
The causes of a tremor can range from the benign to the serious:
- Medication side effects: Some medications list tremor as a potential side effect. These include certain medications used to treat asthma, cancer, depression, epilepsy and high blood pressure.
- Excessive caffeine: In general, ingesting up to 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day is considered safe for most adults. While some people can tolerate even higher intake, others risk a caffeine overdose that can cause a wide range of symptoms. These can include diarrhea, insomnia, anxiousness, headache, fever and uncontrollable muscle movements. It’s wise to limit your intake of caffeinated beverages, as the average cup of coffee can have up to 100 mg of caffeine, while an energy drink can reach 250 mg of caffeine.
- Anxiety: Anxiety is characterized by excessive, persistent worry and fear. Physically, it can also lead to sweating, a fast heart rate, rapid breathing and shaking.
- Essential tremor: This neurological disorder is one of the most common causes of tremor. It’s usually not a serious condition, but can get worse over time. Essential tremor is usually more prominent on one side of the body and happens with movement. Symptoms can be temporarily worsened by stress, fatigue and caffeine.
- Low blood sugar: When your blood has low levels of sugar, or glucose, it’s called hypoglycemia. It’s often a sign of poorly managed diabetes, but can have other causes. Examples include excessive alcohol consumption, a hormone deficiency or an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa. In addition to a tremor, other symptoms of mild hypoglycemia can include hunger, sweating, dizziness and blurred vision.
- Overactive thyroid: If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you can experience wide-ranging symptoms, which can include shakiness. Other possible symptoms to watch for include swelling in the neck, mood swings, fatigue, muscle weakness, an increased appetite, sudden weight changes and a fast heart rate.
- Parkinson’s disease: The earliest noticeable symptom of this neurological disorder is typically a resting tremor in the hand or fingers. The tremor may also develop in the arms, legs, jaw or head. Your movement can begin to slow, and muscles can become stiff and painful. Eventually, posture and balance can be affected, and even unconscious movements such as blinking or smiling can become difficult.
Calm your fears
If you’re experiencing unexplained shaking or trembling, consider making an appointment with your primary care provider. They can help narrow down potential causes and provide a referral to a neurologist, if necessary.
Understanding the cause of your symptoms and what to expect going forward can help you make important decisions about your health. At Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina, we partner with you in navigating your health concerns while also providing assisted living and help with daily care.