Factors associated with increased risk of head tremor in essential tremor: A community-based study in northern Manhattan



Head tremor is one of the major expressions of essential tremor (ET). It is not well understood why some patients develop head tremor, whereas others do not. A study of the characteristics of patients with head tremor has not been undertaken. Our goal was to estimate the prevalence of head tremor and to identify demographic and clinical characteristics associated with an increased risk of head tremor in ET. Cases were ascertained from a community-based study of ET in northern Manhattan, New York. Arm tremor severity was rated with a total tremor score. Logistic regression analyses resulted in odds ratios (OR). Head tremor was present in 37 (34.9%) of 106 ET cases. Female gender was associated with a fourfold increased risk of head tremor (OR = 3.73; P = 0.005). Total tremor score was divided into quartiles; individuals in the lowest or highest quartile were four times more likely to have head tremor (OR = 4.16; P = 0.001). Individuals with both risk factors (female gender and lowest or highest total tremor score quartile) were 16 times more likely to have head tremor (OR = 15.88; P = 0.0006). Being related to a proband with head tremor marginally increased the risk of head tremor (OR = 11.30; P = 0.08). Age and tremor duration did not influence the risk of head tremor. We identified several factors that were associated with an increased risk of head tremor in ET; female gender, coexisting arm tremor that was either very mild or extremely severe, and relation to an ET case with head tremor. These disease associations require further exploration, and might provide insight into the mechanisms underlying head tremor. © 2003 Movement Disorder Society