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Research Summary

Alcohol's Benefits in Patients With Essential Tremor

Several studies have indicated that alcohol can suppress essential tremor (ET). To examine whether it may also improve gait, researchers assessed the walking patterns of 16 patients with ET and 11 age-matched controls without ET before and 30-minutes after each subject consumed a small dose of alcohol. Measurements included the number of missteps (taking steps outside specified boundaries marked on a treadmill), ataxia score (a ratio measuring the regularity of walking strides), and tremor score (a rating of tremor severity in patients with ET). Subjects did not have a history of alcohol abuse, and patients with ET were not being treated with medication.

  • After consuming alcohol, patients with ET had significantly improved tremor scores and ataxia scores. Their number of missteps also significantly decreased (from 8.8 to 5.6).
  • Controls had a slight worsening of ataxia scores and an increased number of missteps (from 0.4 to 0.7), though both of these results were nonsignificant.

Comments:

This study confirms previous findings indicating that alcohol use can improve tremor in patients with ET. Further, it showed that drinking may also improve gait in these patients. While the results of this study apply only to patients with essential tremor, they raise the possibility that alcohol might benefit those with other movement disorders.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD

Reference:

Klebe S, Stolze H, Grensing K, et al. Influence of alcohol on gait in patients with essential tremor. Neurology. 2005;65:96-101.

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