Everyday tasks like writing, drinking water or buttoning a shirt would be impossible if your hands shook all the time. There may be a way to turn off this uncontrolled shaking. The condition is called essential tremor. It often runs in families and tends to get worse over time. New technology is allowing patients to turn off the tremor with a flip of a switch.
Every time William Mouro lifts his hand to sign his name he suffers from uncontrolled shaking. "My hand writing wasn't legible." Simple chores were nearly impossible. Putting on his glasses is almost dangerous. "I have stuck myself in the eye with a finger." But the things most of us take for granted have become easier now that he can control the disease that robbed him of the ability to do everyday tasks. With the touch of a button, William can turn his tremor on, or off. The technology is called deep brain stimulation. "We're interfering with some of the circuitry that causes the tremor." says Dr. Ryan Uitti, a Mayo Clinic Neurologist.
Hyperactive cells misfiring in a part of the brain cause essential tremor. To stop the misfiring, doctors map out the brain's electrical system. Then with the patient sedated but awake, they run an electrode from a tiny computer implanted under the skin to the spot that's causing the shaking. Once there, they apply a small electrical current. The tremor that prevented patients from enjoying a normal life, slows, then stops. A quick swipe over the computer under William's skin keeps his tremor still all day. Now he can sign his name, put on his glasses. After forty years of shaking, William's life is back to normal.
Deep brain stimulation works well for many patients, but may not be the best option for everyone and it has recently been approved by the FDA for some people with Parkinson's disease.