What causes shaky hands?

Shaky hands may result from many factors. The most common cause is a tremor related to familial (inherited) traits. Other causes are diseases and conditions that affect the neuromuscular, endocrine or central nervous systems.

Some substances, such as caffeine and tobacco, commonly cause shaky hands because they stimulate the nervous system. Withdrawal from sedating drugs can also result in shaky hands, as the nervous system reacts to removing the sedating influence of the drugs by increasing sensitivity. Shaky hands are common symptoms of strong emotions, such as anxiety, fear and anger. In addition, the normal aging process is associated with shaky hands, most likely due to decline in neuromuscular function.

Tremor-related causes of shaky hands

Shaky hands may be caused by tremors including:

  • Dystonic tremor
  • Essential tremor
  • Intention tremor
  • Postural tremor
  • Resting tremor
  • Senile tremor

Drug-related causes of shaky hands

Taking or withdrawing from certain drugs can also cause shaky hands. Examples include:

  • Use of beta agonists
  • Withdrawal from certain medications, including some anti-anxiety drugs
  • Withdrawal from, or excessive consumption of, alcohol, caffeine or tobacco

Other causes of shaky hands

Certain diseases or conditions can also cause shaky hands including:

  • Brain tumor
  • Emotions, such as anger, anxiety and fear
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
  • Normal aging process
  • Parkinson’s disease (brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination)
  • Stroke
  • Thyroid diseases and disorders such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

Serious or life-threatening causes of shaky hands

In some cases, shaky hands may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Brain tumor
  • Delirium tremens from severe alcohol withdrawal
  • Stroke

Questions for diagnosing the cause of shaky hands

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your shaky hands including:

  • How long have you experienced shaky hands?
  • When do you feel your hands shake?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of shaky hands?

Because shaky hands can be caused by serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Brain damage
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • Paralysis


  1. Tremor. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003192.htm.
  2. NINDS tremor information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tremor/tremor.htm

What are shaky hands?

Shaky hands are a common symptom that can even occur in healthy people. Although there are many causes of shaky hands, in some people there is no known cause. The most common cause is an essential tremor, which often is inherited and considered benign. Shaky hands may occur with conditions that affect only the hands or with conditions that affect the other parts of the body, such as generalized... Read more about shaky handsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with shaky hands?

Shaky hands may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems and parts, including the hands.

Drug symptoms that may occur with shaky hands

Shaky hands may accompany other symptoms related to taking or withdrawing from a drug includi... Read more about shaky handssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 8, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves