Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is a common form of epilepsy syndrome. If one experiences persistent seizure episodes, it is vital to consult a doctor to determine the type so that appropriate treatment can be started.
What are the signs?
This type of epilepsy syndrome is characterized by 3 forms of seizures that start in childhood, usually between 5-15 years of age. One of the features is that the seizure types evolve as the child reaches the teenage years and adulthood.
Children with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy might start with absence seizures. These episodes are often seen as “zoning out” where the child is unaware of his/her surroundings and does not respond for a few seconds.
The episodes are generally brief and not accompanied by erratic physical motions, thus most are left unnoticed.
These episodes typically start a few years after experiencing the absence seizures. It is characterized by abrupt jerking motions of the legs, arms or body along with a diminished state of consciousness.
In some cases, an episode occurs during phases of drowsiness either while falling starting to sleep or when upon waking up.
Generalized tonic clonic seizures
A few months or even years after the start of the myoclonic seizures, young individuals with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy start to suffer from generalized tonic clonic seizures. These episodes are more intense which involves involuntary motions and rigidity of the body along with diminished level of awareness or passing out.
Management of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
Some of the treatment options for juvenile myoclonic epilepsy include the following:
- Medications – different anti-seizure drugs are effective such as valproic acid, clonazepam, topiramate and levetiracetam. In most cases, only one anti-seizure drug is necessary which is called as monotherapy. If there is no improvement, the doctor might switch to another drug or opt for a combination of several drugs.
- Lifestyle changes – some of the lifestyle triggers include alcohol use, sleep deprivation and certain medications. Avoiding these triggers is a vital part of treatment.
- Avoidance of certain medications – there are a few anti-seizure drugs that can aggravate the seizures such as oxcarbazepine, carbamazepine and phenytoin.
- Surgery – this is an option if the seizures do not seem to improve with medications