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3 Ways to Tell Whether You're Having Myoclonic Seizures

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

"Myo" stands for muscle, and "clonus" means rapid alternation between contractions and relaxation periods. Myoclonic seizure patients, therefore, usually experience fleeting muscle jerks or twitches.

Watch for Involuntary Muscle Contractions

"Myo" stands for muscle, and "clonus" means rapid alternation between contractions and relaxation periods. Myoclonic seizure patients, therefore, usually experience fleeting muscle jerks or twitches. If you're having a myoclonic episode, you might feel like you're being shocked or are having repeated, uncontrollable spasms or shudders.

It is common for people without seizures to experience brief myoclonic spasms like hiccups, eyelid twitches or jerking while falling asleep, so these symptoms don't necessarily indicate seizure activity. Talk with your doctor if you're concerned that your myoclonic symptoms are becoming severe or are not within normal parameters.

Observe Seizure Repetition and Timing

The most common time for myoclonic episodes to occur is while the body is still tired. Many patients complain of a series of seizures upon waking, which taper off later in the day. The jerking movements occur quickly, lasting for a couple of seconds at most and occurring on both sides of the body. You may experience one twitch, spasm or jump, causing you to drop a water glass or make a brief facial contortion. In a severe case of myoclonus, however, you might have severely distorted movements that occur continually and affect your ability to walk, talk or eat. Some patients with myoclonic seizures also have difficulty sleeping due to constant, overnight muscle twitching.

Myoclonic jerking can also occur in people who have Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer's, so your physician may want to do a variety of bloodwork, MRIs and CT scans before confirming a seizure diagnosis.

Loss of Consciousness Is Not a Telltale Sign

It is rare to lose consciousness during myoclonic episodes, though it isn't impossible. If you experience more than a few seconds of a dazed state after your seizure, talk with your doctor about the possibility of a complex partial diagnosis. Myoclonic jerks can be present with these major motor seizures that result in longer periods of unconsciousness or confusion, so you may be experiencing a combination of seizure types.

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