Unlike atonic seizures (which cause the patient’s muscle to go limp), myoclonic seizures (myo meaning “muscle”, clonic meaning “jerk”) result in an increase in muscle tone. The areas of the brain stem responsible for increasing and decreasing muscle tone are close together – meaning atonic and myoclonic seizures probably begin in the same place. Patients experiencing sudden dramatic changes in muscle tone will often suffer from either or both types of seizures.
Patients suffering from myoclonic seizures typically react as if hit by a single jolt of electricity.
Myoclonic seizures are often only one manifestation of a mixed seizure disorder, and they can be very serious. On rare occasions, a patient may suffer from a series of such jolts – a serious type of epilepsy classified as infantile spasms.
It is important to note that not all myoclonic jerks are myoclonic seizures. Think about the times you’ve seen someone falling asleep then suddenly jerk awake. This is a great example of a myoclonic jerk – but not a seizure.
How are myoclonic seizures treated?
There is no one treatment method for any patient with a seizure disorder. Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual patient based on their diagnosis and symptoms. Treatment options may include medical therapy, nerve stimulation, dietary therapy, or surgery, as appropriate. Clinical trials may also be a valuable treatment alternative.