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What Happens To Untreated Myoclonus?

Myoclonus is more or less a movement disorder that involves quick, sudden involuntary muscle jerks that cannot be controlled. These muscle jerks can occur randomly or in a rhythmic pattern. They can also be occasional or frequent. Myoclonus can manifest itself in different forms with different etiologies and physiological mechanisms. Therefore, when treating myoclonus, an extensive evaluation is required of the underlying cause of twitching of a muscle or group of muscles. There is scarcity of evidence on what really happens when myoclonus is untreated, but for less severe forms of myoclonus, treatment is not necessary. On the other hand, if serious cases of myoclonus are not treated, they can lead to health degradation, and worse, disability.1

What Happens To Untreated Myoclonus?

Studies done on treatment of myoclonus has identified four classes of myoclonus namely; physiologic myoclonus, essential myoclonus, epileptic myoclonus and symptomatic myoclonus. Physiological form occurs normally in individuals with varying degrees of occurrence. Essential myoclonus can be described as monosymptomatic and rather non-progressive. As for epileptic myoclonus, it is common in people with an epileptic disorder. Finally, symptomatic myoclonus is a secondary response to a defined neurological, metabolic or other medical disorder.

With that said, we can deal with what happens when either one of the aforementioned form of myoclonus is left untreated. In the case of physiological myoclonus, also referred to as normal myoclonus has near zero side effects if left untreated. As a matter of fact, most cases of this form usually subside on their own without any kind of treatment. Epileptic myoclonus can have adverse effects depending on the origin of the epileptic seizures. If untreated, it can worsen over time, with worst case scenario being mental impairment, drastic behavioral changes or loss of mortal coordination.

Essential myoclonus is a primary form of myoclonus that is likely attributed to genetic disorders. Otherwise, the cause is unknown. Most cases of this form are benign and non-progressive meaning that they have no adverse impact on quality of life. So, if left untreated, other than the sudden quick jolts of muscles, there are no other expected effects. Symptomatic myoclonus is the broader form of myoclonus and can have detrimental effect on one’s healthy if untreated. Some of the common ailments associated with this form include; kidney/liver failure, neurodegenerative disorders as well as dementing diseases. So, if left untreated, the underlying condition could worsen and lead to poor health and organ failure of affected organs.

Majority of myoclonus cases are difficult to treat since treatment of the underlying problem is problematic or ineffective. At the same time, most of them have barely any adverse effects if untreated. Some common possible effects which patients may experience include distress and interference with the daily activities. The extent to which an individual is affected by myoclonus depends on the adversity of the muscle jerks and underlying condition.

Best Procedure For Treating Myoclonus

As challenging as myoclonus treatment is, there is a procedure that can be followed to ensure that the best treatment is administered. The basic approaches are based on considering the clinical history of the patient, carrying out an EEG (electroencephalography) test, and identify the pathophysiological mechanism of the underlying condition.2 Once the diagnostic tests have been carried out, the results should be carefully evaluated. Then a designated treatment is tailored depending on the results and the manifestation of myoclonus. It is also important to identify the origin of the attributing cause of myoclonus from the brain. That is, whether the myoclonus is cortical, cortical-subcortical, subcortical-nonsegmental, segmental or peripheral.

Myoclonus can also be treated using pharmacotherapy, depending on the form. However, it is important to note that this form of treatment have its disadvantages including myoclonus itself as a symptoms depending on the medication or its contents. Needless say, some medication are not effective individually, and thus multiple medications need to be used together to ensure that they are effective. Controlled clinical trials can also be implemented, but have to be based on the diagnostics results obtained from a thorough investigation of the patient’s history and examination results.


An individual can live with myoclonus without any health complications. However, some forms of myoclonus can have adverse effects on the individual’s health, depending on how serious the condition is. Some of the common consequences of leaving myoclonus untreated are impaired movement, interference with daily activities, behavioral changes, degrading health, mental impairment and organ failure, if an organ is affected.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 20, 2019

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