Posted in Health, news, Politics

Bill Clinton’s tremor, how common is this?

By Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP

Updated from Jul 27, 2016

 

During the Democratic National Convention this summer, Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of Hillary and many noticed he had a distinct tremor in both hands throughout the speech.

Many have theorized that the former President has Parkinson’s, one of the most common progressive disorders of the nervous system. Yet the tremor he has does not seem to be characteristic of Parkinson’s. A Parkinson’s tremor appears to be a “pill rolling” tremor where the finger and hand move rhythmically as if one is playing with a pill. Moreover an individual with Parkinson’s demonstrates more rigidity, changes in gait, and changes in speech. Bill Clinton’s movements were very fluid. Its been suggested he has an “essential tremor” a benign tremor that comes with age and is seen with movement.

Actually Bill Clinton once stated he was originally worried he had Parkinson’s. In an interview with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, he admitted to being concerned about having Parkinson’s disease when he noticed his tremor and was “relieved” when his doctor’s ruled out the diagnosis. Bill Clinton states his tremor is just “a normal aging phenomenon”.  The ex-President and most famous baby boomer is now 69 years old.

What is a tremor?

An involuntary movement of the hands, face, trunk, legs, voice, etc.  Actually its the most common involuntary movement there is.  It many times signals an issue with the nervous system.

What causes tremors?

Many issues can cause tremors.

Brain – a stroke, tumor, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, Wilson’s disease and any neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain such as Parkinson’s.

Metabolic – thyroid disorder, kidney disease, liver disease, parathyroid issues, low blood sugar, low salts such as sodium, magnesium and calcium, low vitamins such as B12

Pharmacologic – many medications can cause tremors:  asthma (albuterol), seizure (Depakote), mood stabilizers, antibiotics, cancer, heart, ADHD, blood pressure, SSRI’s and the list goes on

Alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal, nicotine and caffeine are culprits as well.

How are tremors tested?

A variety of laboratory tests, including blood and urine and sometimes spinal tap, are run to rule out metabolic causes.

CT scans or MRI’s to rule out brain pathology

Electromyograms to test the muscles and nerves

How are tremors treated?

Correcting the underlying cause if its low blood sugar, thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiency, etc.

Eliminating triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, etc.

Medications to control the tremor (Levadopa for Parkinson’s, beta blockers for essential tremor)

Physical therapy

Surgery

Deep brain stimulation

And many other treatments are currently being researched

How to prevent a tremor?

Since many tremors come with age, they are not easily avoidable.  What we can do is:

Watch our diet, including blood sugar, vitamins, etc.

Get plenty of rest

Avoid caffeine

Avoid medications that cause tremors

Have regular medical visits

Avoid head injury

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and iHeart Radio, and a Board Certified Family Physician

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Author:

Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Assistant Professor Touro University Nevada

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