"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Essential tremor linked to increased risk of dementia

March 13, 2024 – New research shows that individuals with essential tremor are almost thrice more more likely to develop dementia in comparison with the final population.

In the brand new study, nearly 20% of older adults with essential tremor had dementia. However, the rates were lower than in adults with Parkinson's disease.

The study is “the most comprehensive account of the longitudinal course of cognitive impairment in an ET cohort,” say the authors, led by Elan D. Louis, MD, MSc, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Cognitive problems almost twice as high

For the study, 222 adults (average age at baseline 79 years) with essential tremor underwent detailed cognitive testing and were followed for a mean of 5 years.

At the beginning of the study, 168 people had normal cognitive abilities, 35 had mild cognitive impairment and 19 had dementia. During follow-up, 59 people developed cognitive problems and 41 developed dementia.

During follow-up, the general dementia rate was 18.5%, and 12.2% of participants progressed from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. The overall rate of dementia in patients with tremor is roughly 300% higher than in people in the final population and 50% higher than in adults with Parkinson's disease.

The overall rate of mild cognitive impairment was 26.6%, almost twice as high as in the final population, but lower than in Parkinson's patients.

“Our data suggest that the prevalence and conversion rates to dementia in ET are intermediate between those associated with the natural history of aging and the more pronounced rates observed in individuals with Parkinson's disease,” the researchers write.

Anything but trivial

Reached for comment, Shaheen Lakhan, MD, a neurologist and researcher based in Miami, said: “The days of viewing.” [essential tremor] greater than just an “annoying trembling” are over. This study refutes the concept essential tremor is a trivial disease.”

“Future research agenda needs to further clarify the connection between ET and dementia and develop neuroprotective strategies. But this study represents a seismic shift in our understanding of essential tremor,” Lakhan said.

“Given the cognitive risks faced by ET patients, the term “benign” now not applies. Our clinical practice and communication with patients must adapt accordingly,” he added.