What is a myoclonic seizure? Everything you need to know
Myoclonic seizures are a type of seizure that cause jerks in your muscles. Find out what triggers myoclonic seizures, how they’re diagnosed and treated.
Myoclonic seizures are a short, shock-like seizure that normally occurs while you are awake and conscious. They often last less than a couple of seconds, and you might have a few in a row.
Depending on the type of epilepsy you have, myoclonic seizures can often be treated effectively with medication and lifestyle changes. However, it is important to be aware that some types of myoclonic seizures are caused by more challenging kinds of epilepsy. So, it is important to have these seizures diagnosed as soon as possible.
What are myoclonic seizure symptoms?
Someone having a myoclonic seizure will look like they are shaking or jerking. The seizures often occur in the neck, the shoulders, the upper arms or the face. The person stays conscious and aware whilst the seizures are happening, and can normally carry on with what they were doing after the seizures finish. People with myoclonic seizures often have a cluster of shakes and jerks, one after the other.
Myoclonic seizures often occur in the morning soon after waking up. Because they only last for a couple of seconds, they are often mistaken for a tick or even clumsiness.
Myoclonic seizures symptoms can happen to people with various types of epilepsy. The person having the seizures might only have myoclonic jerks, or they may experience other kinds of seizure too.
Myoclonic seizure causes
There are a few different reasons someone might start having myoclonic seizures:
- Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy: This kind of epilepsy often starts in the teenage years or early adulthood. Usually, seizures can be managed with medication and by avoiding things like stress, tiredness and flashing lights.
Learn more: In-depth guide to Juvenile Myoclonic epilepsy
- Lennox-Gastaut syndrome: This is a rare form of epilepsy which normally begins in childhood. The person will usually have lots of different kinds of seizures, including tonic-clonic seizures.
- Progressive myoclonic epilepsy: There are a few types of rare epilepsy which come with myoclonic seizures. These seizures may not be easily treated by medication and can get progressively worse - so it is important to get your loved one seen by an epilepsy specialist as soon as possible.
You may have heard of myoclonic jerks. Almost everyone experiences myoclonic jerks from time to time, especially when they are falling asleep. This is perfectly normal and does not mean you have epilepsy.
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How are myoclonic seizures diagnosed?
If you believe that you or someone you care for is having myoclonic seizures, visit your doctor or a community neurologist. They will take a case history to learn more about the seizures, what they look like, and when they happen. They will then use various methods to diagnose the seizures:
- EEG machine: This technology can pick up specific brain patterns that happen in people with myoclonic seizures
- MRI scan: These machines can find out if there is any damage to your brain cells which is causing the seizures
Myoclonic seizures treatment
If you are diagnosed with myoclonic seizures, your doctor will recommend different treatment options depending on the cause of your seizures. Myoclonic seizures treatment might include:
- Anti-epilepsy drugs which can help control the seizures
- Medical devices which regulate electrical activity in the brain
- Changes to lifestyle - such as avoiding alcohol, sleeping better and avoiding stress
- Certain kinds of diet such as the keto diet
If you have any doubts about your myoclonic seizures, it is worth contacting your doctor or an epilepsy specialist as soon as possible. They can answer your questions and give you peace of mind.