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What Is Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy?

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Diagnosis of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

Doctors diagnose juvenile myoclonic epilepsy based on the presence of myoclonic jerks together with other seizure types. Different tests can help make the diagnosis of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): by attaching a set of adhesive electrodes to the scalp, a technician records brain waves during this painless test. A neurologist interprets the EEG. In juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, a pattern of spikes and waves is often present, especially in response to flashing lights. To confirm the diagnosis, an EEG can be done while asleep and just after awakening.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): this high-resolution scan of the brain is normal in children with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
  • Computed tomography (CT): this brain scan creates lower quality images than an MRI, but is faster and more widely available. CT brain scans are also normal in people with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.

Myoclonic jerks of the legs and arms are common in people without epilepsy. In fact, they're normal as a person falls to sleep. The key to the diagnosis of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is the additional presence of either absence seizures or convulsive seizures.

Treatment of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

Depakote (valproate or valproic acid) is often used to treat juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Depakote is a broad-spectrum anti-seizure drug, and can treat each of the three seizure types that occur in people with JME.

Other epilepsy drugs are effective in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, too. Effective treatment depends on using a medicine that controls all three seizure types seen in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Keppra (levetiracetam), Topamax (topiramate), and Lamictal (lamotrigine) all treat juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.

For most people with JME, treatment is long-term, and often lifelong. However, treatment is effective, allowing most people with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy to go five years or more between seizures.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 18, 2015
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