Dear Lucy: I am an MIT retiree in generally good health, age 69. Recently, I noticed that when I hold my hands still, stretched out in front of me (relaxed and flat), there seems to be a tiny tremor in both of my baby fingers. I thought it might be too much caffeine, but cutting that out didn’t make the “problem” disappear. Should I be concerned? As far as I know, neither of my parents had this condition. What do you advise? —Tiny Tremor
Dear TT: As Lucy knows all too well, the aging body is a constant source of mystery and surprise. “I never noticed that before,” is a phrase all individuals of a certain age, Lucy included, say frequently. We don’t make appointments with our primary care providers (PCPs) every time a new physical “feature”—let’s not say “problem”—shows up; we’d spend half our lives at MIT Medical! But when something seems especially worrisome, says MIT Medical Director of Nursing Maureen Johnston, it’s always good to check in with a clinician.
Johnston, a nurse practitioner whose practice includes many retirees, tells Lucy that she can’t provide a very specific answer to your question without knowing more about your personal health history. However, she notes, “a fine tremor is a common symptom as we get older.” It may be a familial trait or caused by too much caffeine, Johnston says, neither of which seems to be the case for you. “It may also be a side effect of medication,” she adds.
While a fine tremor is “not usually a significant cause for concern,” Johnston says, “it may sometimes be the first sign of a more serious problem and should not be ignored.” Johnston and Lucy advise you to make an appointment with your PCP for a full evaluation of your tremor, and Lucy wishes you many happy, healthy retirement years.