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What are the characteristics of tremor?
Characteristics may include a rhythmic shaking in the hands, arms, head, legs, or trunk; shaky voice; difficulty writing or drawing; or problems holding and controlling utensils, such as a fork. Some tremors may be triggered by or become exaggerated during times of stress or strong emotion, when the individual is physically exhausted, or during certain postures or movements.
A useful way to understand and describe tremors is to define them according to the following types. Resting or static tremor occurs when the muscle is relaxed and the limb is fully supported against gravity, such as when the hands are lying on the lap. It may be seen as a shaking of the limb, even when the person is at rest. This type of tremor is often seen in patients with Parkinson's disease. An action tremor occurs during any type of movement of an affected body part. There are several subclassifications of action tremor. Postural tremor occurs when the person maintains a position against gravity, such as holding the arms outstretched. Kinetic (or intention) tremor occurs during purposeful voluntary movement, such as touching a finger to one's nose during a medical exam. Task-specific tremor appears when performing highly skilled, goal-oriented tasks such as handwriting or speaking. Isometric tremor occurs during a voluntary muscle contraction that is not accompanied by any movement.
Dystonia or Parkinsons disease can cause tremors
Cerebellar tremor is a slow, broad tremor of the extremities that occurs at the end of a purposeful movement, such as trying to press a button or touching a finger to the tip of one's nose. Cerebellar tremor is caused by lesions in or damage to the cerebellum resulting from stroke, tumor, or disease such as multiple sclerosis or some inherited degenerative disorder. It can also result from chronic alcoholism or overuse of some medicines. In classic cerebellar tremor, a lesion on one side of the brain produces a tremor in that same side of the body that worsens with directed movement. Cerebellar damage can also produce a "wing-beating" type of tremor called rubral or Holmes' tremor - a combination of rest, action, and postural tremors. The tremor is often most prominent when the affected person is active or is maintaining a particular posture. Cerebellar tremor may be accompanied by dysarthria (speech problems), nystagmus (rapid, involuntary rolling of the eyes), gait problems, and postural tremor of the trunk and neck.
Psychogenic tremor (also called hysterical tremor) can occur at rest or during postural or kinetic movement. The characteristics of this kind of tremor may vary but generally include sudden onset and remission, increased incidence with stress, change in tremor direction and/or body part affected, and greatly decreased or disappearing tremor activity when the patient is distracted. Many patients with psychogenic tremor have a conversion disorder (defined as a psychological disorder that produces physical symptoms) or another psychiatric disease.
Orthostatic tremor is characterized by rhythmic muscle contractions that occur in the legs and trunk immediately after standing. Cramps are felt in the thighs and legs and the patient shakes uncontrollably when asked to stand in one spot. No other clinical signs or symptoms are present and the shaking ceases when the patient sits or is lifted off the ground. Orthostatic tremor may also occur in patients who have essential tremor.
Physiologic tremor occurs in every normal individual and has no clinical significance. It is rarely visible to the eye and may be heightened by strong emotion (such as anxiety or fear), physical exhaustion, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, heavy metal poisoning, stimulants, alcohol withdrawal, or fever. It can be seen in all voluntary muscle groups and can be detected by extending the arms and placing a piece of paper on of the hands. Enhanced physiologic tremor is a strengthening of physiologic tremor to more visible levels. It is generally not caused by a neurological disease but by reaction to certain drugs, alcohol withdrawal, or medical conditions including an overactive thyroid and hypoglycemia. It is usually reversible once the cause is corrected.