Seriousness and severity of the myoclonus depend upon the cause of myoclonus. Myoclonus is serious when the quality of life gets significantly impact due to myoclonus and the patient is in a debilitating condition.
Is Myoclonus A Serious Condition?
Myoclonus is a symptom. This symptom can be caused due to a variety of disease conditions. Most of the disease-causing this symptom are neurological, although myoclonus can also be the result of other conditions such as infection or medications. The seriousness of myoclonus depends upon the severity of the disease. Progression of the disease may also have an impact on the severity of myoclonus and the extent of quality of life affected. Myoclonus may have an impact on performing daily activities. Complicated myoclonus interferes with daily activities by jerky movements and increased muscular contraction1.
Further, the management of the condition largely depends upon the underlying disorder. In cases, where it is impossible to treat the condition, aggressive therapy is provided to delay the progression of the disease and for alleviating the symptoms. Myoclonus is not serious in cases where the extent of damage of the disease is limited and reversible for instance in infections or accumulation of toxins or medication side effects for that matter. Fortunately, most cases of myoclonus are due to reversible and harmless neurological dysfunction.
Conditions such as Progressive Myoclonic Epilepsy do exist which is not managed by the general medications. Unlike Myoclonic epilepsy, in which myoclonus and epilepsy coexist and occurs simultaneously, Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy is a more serious condition in which seizures and myoclonus occur separately2. In this context, myoclonus is a serious condition because it is not managed by the drugs that are usually administered for treating seizures.
Sometimes myoclonus is superficially seen as a normal condition for e.g. muscle switching in during sleeping; however, it may be the result of a more serious condition probably a restless legs syndrome.
Serious myoclonus is also the result of serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a drug adverse reaction which may sometimes be life-threatening3.
Diagnosis Of Myoclonus
Myoclonus is a complex medical condition and the diagnosis is difficult due to the complexity of the underlying condition. The primary aim of the doctor during diagnosis is to establish the presence of myoclonus as well as the reasons for this condition. Thus, myoclonus and the cause are diagnosed through exclusion approach. Following are the various diagnostic methods available for effective diagnosis of myoclonus:
Physical Observation: The neurologists, though physical observation tries to find out whether the muscle contraction in an outstretched arm is due to myoclonus.
Muscle Activity: Muscular contraction during myoclonus shows asymmetric muscular activity. This asymmetric muscular activity is recorded by Surface Electromyography. In this method, the electrodes are placed on the skin and the intensity of the muscle contraction is captured by the machine and is converted into a graph. This is a conclusive diagnosis of myoclonus.
Electroencephalography: This diagnostic method is used to identify the site of origin of myoclonus activity. Electrodes are attached to the scalp and the patient is asked to breathe deeply. For uncovering the abnormal electrical activity, patients are advised to listen to sounds or to look at the bought lights4.
Imaging Techniques: One of the major reasons of myoclonus is tumor or lesions in the brain. These structures can be visible through imaging techniques. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technique is used to confirm the presence of the tumor of lesions in the brain or spinal cord.
Laboratory Tests: Myoclonus may also be caused due to metabolic disorders. These metabolic disorders can be identified through laboratory tests. The test is used to identify autoimmune disease, Kidney or liver disease, diabetes, accumulation of toxins or other metabolic disorders4.
Myoclonus is not a serious condition in cases when it is caused due to the accumulation of toxins or a side effect of drugs as these causes can be reversed. However, a more serious adverse reaction such as serotonin syndrome is a life-threatening condition. Further, myoclonus caused due to progressive neurological disorder is a serious condition.
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