Myoclonus is regarded as a benign condition and should not cause any alarm to an individual experiencing muscle jerks.1 Nevertheless, if the defect is so profound, one may experience some disruptions with normal daily activities due to the occurrence of these twitches. On the other hand, some forms of myoclonus can be fatal, especially if they are as a result of a brain tumor, neurological defect or kidney or liver failure. Therefore, for such cases, treatment is necessary, to manage symptoms or reverse damage caused, if possible.
The basic treatment therapy for myoclonus involves medication meant to reduce the symptoms patients’ exhibit. Some of the medications prescribed for myoclonus patients are clonazepam, barbiturates, primidone, phenytoin, the latter three being antiepileptic drugs. These medications have their benefits as well as adverse side effects.
Clonazepam, for example, which is a tranquilizer, may lead to drowsiness and loss of coordination. Phenytoin can cause liver failure. Valproic acid, an anticonvulsant, is yet another antiepileptic drug commonly used in treating myoclonus. However, it is not safe for pregnant women. It is therefore important that a patient is not only aware of the benefits of drugs administered, but also their demerits.2
Alternative Treatment For Myoclonus
The most common alternative treatment for myoclonus is sodium valproate. It can either be administered alone or alongside other drugs, specifically, clonazepam. The effectiveness of these combinations of treatment varies from patient to patient and the extent of the disorder. Sodium valproate is an anticonvulsant that’s often used in treatment of epileptic, bipolar and other psychiatric disorders. It is the sodium salt of valproic acid. It works by controlling brain chemicals which transmit signals to the nerves thus preventing seizures. Common side effects of sodium valproate include nausea, weight loss, tremors, eye twitching and drowsiness, to name a few.
Another alternative therapy is Botox injections, which are adequate in treating myoclonus that affects a specific area.3 This can be effective for patients with segmental myoclonus. Surgeries involving deep brain stimulation procedures are yet another alternative mode of treating certain types of myoclonus In particular, inherited forms of myoclonus such as dystonia, which falls under subcortical-nonsegmental myoclonus and progressive myoclonic epilepsy. Other patients who may benefit from surgery are those whose myoclonus is attributed to by a brain tumor or lesion or by the spinal cord. In addition to that, if the myoclonus has led to disability or is affecting organs such as the eyes or ears, surgery may be considered.
What To Expect From A Patient With Myoclonus?
Myoclonus is characterized by a muscle twitch or several muscles twitching. This occurrence can happen frequently or infrequently, in a particular pattern or not. Moreover, the twitching is usually brief, involuntary and can either be a violent activity of muscles or silencing of muscles. In cases where the muscles go silent, an individual can lose movement in the affected area. As a result, people with myoclonus can experience difficulties walking or eating as well as stuttering speech. Common myoclonus which can happen even in normal people include hiccupping, leg twitching while falling asleep, and sudden muscle twitching as a response to startling events.(2)
Can Myoclonus Be Prevented?
Myoclonus can be caused by a variety of factors, and most commonly neurological problems or underlying medical illnesses. However, it cannot be prevented. The muscle twitches usually occur suddenly and one cannot control i.e. initiate or stop the twitching. In cases where there are known external triggers, such as reaction to certain medication, startling activities such as loud noise or too much lighting, these triggers can be avoided to reduce the risk of myoclonus. Most muscle twitches are usually harmless and not related to any serious condition. Nevertheless, if they are persistent and more muscles continue being affected, you should have that checked out.
Some commonly used drugs for myoclonus treatment such as clonazepam lose their effectiveness over time. Individuals adopt a tolerance towards the medication, rendering it useless in managing the individual’s symptoms. Therefore, alternative treatment methods may be considered to step up the treatment of myoclonus and enhance improvement.