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The prevalence of essential tremor in rural northern Tanzania

Abstract

Introduction: Estimates of the prevalence of essential tremor (ET) vary widely but there are few existing data on the prevalence of ET in sub-Saharan Africa.

Patients and methods: A door-to-door community based prevalence study of ET was carried out in the Hai district of northern Tanzania (n = 161 071). The screening questionnaire was followed by examination of positive responders and backed up with other case finding methods.

Results: 222 patients responded positively to the screening questions and 43 were referred by village elders. 65 (38 men, 27 women) were diagnosed with ET. Mean age was 72 years and mean duration of symptoms was 11.3 years. The crude prevalence rate was 41/100 000 and age standardised prevalence compared with the UK population (2001) was 82/100 000.

Discussion: This is the first community based prevalence study of ET in sub-Saharan Africa. Previous data from community based neurological surveys showed lower prevalence rates of 5/100 000 in Ethiopia and 10/100 000 in Nigeria. Non-selective β blockers are available locally and are affordable, yet none of these patients had previously been on any treatment.

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