Department of Neurology

Myoclonic epilepsy in teens

Q: Hello, I'm nineteen years old and I attend the University of Oklahoma. Last summer I was diagnosed with myoclonic seizures. I have sudden jerks which I can't control. For instance, my head jerks to the side almost if I'm having the cold chills, but it will be 90 degrees outside. My leg will kick out for no reason at all or my arm may jerk out for some odd reason. They don't last but a second, but it's very noticable. My EEG was normal but the Doctor still diagnosed me with having Myoclonic seizures. He put me on the medication Depakote and it seemed to work for awhile, but now it has come back. I would have as many as seven to ten jerks a day, but then it got to where I would only have them two to three times a week. Now I'm having these sudden jerks anywhere from four to six times a day. Also the jerks seem to be much harder then normal. Do you think I have myoclonic seizures and do you think it will get worse over the years?

A: You are describing typical myoclonic seizures, and may have what is known as Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. This type of epilepsy typically starts in the teens and may be associated with staring spells (absence), and tonic-clonic seizures. They are generally easily controlled with valproate (Depakote). There is also anectdotal information that other medications, such as lamotrigine (Lamictal) and felbamate (Felbatol) are also effective. Sleep deprivation and fatigue exacerbate these type of seizures, it is common for them to worsen in college, since students tend to stay up late for studies, parties, etc. You may need to increase your sleep. Generally these seizures do not worsen over time, but a medication adjustment is often necessary when the seizures recur.

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