Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is among the most common forms of epilepsy. One of every 14 people with epilepsy has juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Treatment with an epilepsy drug that works for multiple seizure types is usually effective.
A seizure occurs when there’s abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures may go virtually unnoticed. Or, in severe cases, they may produce a change or loss of consciousness and involuntary muscle spasms called convulsions. Seizures usually come on suddenly and vary in duration and severity. A seizure may be a one-time event, or you may have seizures repeatedly. Recurrent seizures are called epilepsy, or a seizure disorder. Less than one in 10 people who has a seizure develops epilepsy.
Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy usually starts around puberty, in late childhood, or adolescence. Three different seizure types can occur in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy:
Myoclonic seizures are the defining symptoms of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Myoclonic seizures cause sudden, quick, small jerks of the arms, shoulder, or (less often) the legs. The myoclonic seizures usually occur in the early morning just after waking up.
Myoclonic seizures can sometimes spread to the rest of the brain. When this happens, a generalized tonic-clonic seizure (convulsive seizure) can occur.
Absence seizures affect the whole brain, as well. In absence seizures, a person becomes unresponsive and stares into space for short periods. No twitching or convulsing occur during absence seizures. These seizures can go unnoticed, or be passed off as daydreaming or inattentiveness.
Causes And Risk Factors of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
Like other forms of epilepsy, the cause is unknown in most cases of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. There are several factors that increase the likelihood of developing the condition:
About one in eight children with childhood absence epilepsy will later develop juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
People with family members affected by epilepsy are more likely to develop juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
Genetics often plays a role in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Multiple genes have been identified that increase the risk.
Although the underlying cause of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is unknown, certain factors can make seizures more likely in people with the condition. Like other forms of epilepsy, seizures in JME are also more likely during sleep deprivation or after drinking alcohol.
Sometimes seizures in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy can be triggered by flickering light, like the sun reflecting off ocean waves, or strobe lighting at a party. In some people, acts of concentration like decision making or calculations can trigger seizures.