Myoclonic seizures are often overlooked because they are not terribly disruptive. Most people, when they hear the word seizure, imagine a person writhing on the floor, completely out of control. Myoclonic seizures are very mild seizures that are often ignored or laughed off until they become chronic or are linked to more serious medical conditions, such as West Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
What Does a Myoclonic Seizure Look Like?
Myoclonic seizures are short, quick jerking motions. The word "myoclonic" translates to "muscle jerking." When a person has a myoclonic seizure, the muscles in one part of the body suddenly contract and then relax. This can cause a person's arms to suddenly jerk up and down, sometimes several times in a row. You may experience a myoclonic seizure as you fall asleep at night as a quick jerking of your legs. A myoclonic seizure may involve several sets of muscles or just one muscle set. It can be isolated or can happen in batches of jerking movements.
When Is It a Twitch, and When Is It a Seizure?
Almost everyone experiences involuntary muscle twitches from time to time. If the twitching is involuntary, involves muscles on both sides of the body at the same time and is a chronic occurrence, your doctor may request an EEG or monitoring to check for possible synapse misfiring or unusual brain electricity activity. Most people who are diagnosed with myoclonic seizures have other symptoms as well.
Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
This type of epilepsy usually sets in around the time of puberty. These seizures are usually limited to the face, neck, shoulders and upper arm muscles. They usually come on strong in the morning and fade as the day goes by. You can take a prescription medication to limit the severity of these seizures.
West Syndrome is usually diagnosed in infants whose myoclonic seizures are so severe that they cause the infant to jerk like a jackknife. These infants are usually diagnosed with other neurological conditions as well.
This type of epilepsy usually involves a combination of seizures: petit mal seizures, myoclonic seizures and atonic seizures. This means that someone suffering from this form of epilepsy experiences twitches and jerks in the face, shoulders and neck, as well as staring spells and moments of temporary loss of muscle tone.
The exact causes of seizures remain a mystery, but there are several things that are known to trigger seizures.
Learn about different types of seizures, their symptoms and their potential causes.