Myoclonus is when we experience a sudden and involuntary muscle spasm. Be it hiccups, shakes, or sleep starts – they all are a form of myoclonus. Read on to know everything you should be aware of about myoclonus.
A sudden muscle jerk in one muscle or a group of muscles is termed as myoclonus. Myoclonus movements cannot be controlled or stopped as they are unexpected and random.
In most cases, myoclonus is normal and healthy people do experience it. However, in some cases, it is a symptom of any underlying condition. The cause of the condition gets found in a physical examination conducted by a doctor.
A form of myoclonus is hiccups. Hiccups are not harmful to the majority of people. However, the other forms of myoclonus can be harmful as they can be shock-like spasms. It is advisable to talk to an expert about the condition.
What are the Symptoms of Myoclonus?
People who experience myoclonus define the symptoms as sudden jerks, spasms, and shock like shakes.
The nature of such jerks is:
- In one part of the body or all over the body
- Variable in intensity
- Variable in frequency
- Interference in regular movements like eating, sleeping, and walking
What Causes Myoclonus?
A variety of causes can be responsible for myoclonus. Depending on the causes, doctors determine the types of myoclonus.
There are different types of myoclonus
- Essential myoclonus: Essential myoclonus is unrelated to any underlying illness. The cause of essential myoclonus is unknown or inherited.
- Epileptic myoclonus: This occurs as part of an epileptic disorder.
- Symptomatic (secondary) myoclonus:
This happens due to an underlying problem such as:
- Head or spinal cord injury
- Kidney or liver failure
- Lipid storage disease
- Chemical or drug poisoning
- Prolonged oxygen deprivation
- Medication reaction
- Autoimmune inflammatory conditions
- Metabolic disorders
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Brain tumor
- Huntington’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia
When to See a Doctor?
Myoclonus is normal and rarely requires medical attention. If, in your case, the symptoms are persistent, talk to a doctor. The doctor will identify the potential cause and determine the treatment option.
What are the Treatment Options Available to Treat Myoclonus?
Before deciding on a suitable treatment option, it is essential to find out the potential cause. Knowing the cause can help in determining treatment and controlling myoclonus.
There are no drugs available to treat myoclonus. Yet, experts recommend some medications to relieve the symptoms. The treatment options available to treat myoclonus include medications, therapies, and surgery. The determination of treatment depends on the type, frequency, and severity of myoclonus symptoms.
Doctors prescribe tranquilizers and anticonvulsants as medications.
- Tranquilizers. Klonopin (clonazepam), a tranquilizer, is the most common drug used to combat myoclonus symptoms.
- Anticonvulsants. Medications used for control epileptic seizures have proved helpful in reducing myoclonus symptoms. Levetiracetam Valproic acid, Zonisamide and Primidone may be used.
Botox injections can be used to control myoclonus symptoms.
When myoclonus occurs due to a tumor in the brain cord, or spinal cord, doctors recommend surgery. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been tried in some people with myoclonus and other movement disorders.
Myoclonus is normal and many times experienced by healthy people. Myoclonus symptoms go away of their own. If yours are frequent, talk to an expert to determine the cause, diagnose the condition, and treat with an apt option.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do doctors diagnose myoclonus?
Doctors review the symptoms and conduct a physical examination. This way, they determine the potential cause and treatment options.
The tests to determine myoclonus include:
- EEG – Electroencephalography
- EMG – Electromyography
- MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Evoked potential studies
- Laboratory Tests i.e. blood tests or urine tests.
What are the Types of Myoclonus?
Depending on the symptoms and causes, doctors categorize the types of myoclonus.
The following are the types of myoclonus:
- Physiological myoclonus
- Essential myoclonus
- Epileptic myoclonus
- Symptomatic myoclonus
- Action myoclonus
- Cortical reflex myoclonus
- Palatal myoclonus
- PME – Progressive myoclonus epilepsy
- Reticular reflex myoclonus
- Stimulus-sensitive myoclonus
- Sleep myoclonus
Who is most likely to be at risk of myoclonus?
No specific group of people is at risk of myoclonus. It can attack males as well as females at an equal rate. People with a family history of myoclonus are often at risk of myoclonus.
How do laboratory tests help determine myoclonus condition?
Laboratory tests can help in determining the cause of myoclonus. Doctors perform blood tests or urine tests to check conditions that contribute to myoclonus.