Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is a primary generalized epilepsy syndrome that is idiopathic in nature. This means that the condition isn't caused by secondary issues such as strokes, head injuries, brain tumours, or infections but the main cause behind the condition also remains unknown.
The condition affects mainly teenagers, although there have been cases where patients from 6 to 36 years of age have been diagnosed with this epilepsy syndrome. The peak age of incidence is between 12 and 18 years of age and it seems that the condition occurs only slightly more commonly in females than in males.
Even with the biggest possibility of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy being an inherited disorder, the exact mode of inheritance is not really clear. Only around 30 percent of patients diagnosed with the condition have a family history of epilepsy.
The following risk factors may increase the chances of patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy having seizures and convulsions:
- Lack of sleep.
- Using alcohol.
- Increased physical and psychological stressors.
- Not being compliant with medication used to manage epilepsy.
- Mornings are usually the time of day when seizures occur the most.
Patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy complain of experiencing myoclonic jerks (muscle fasciculations) that are irregular and brief and involve both sides of the body, thus the condition being a generalized epilepsy disorder. The most commonly affected areas include the shoulders and arms but some patients may complain of jerking in the lower limbs, body, or head.
Up to 80 percent of patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy may complain of generalized tonic-clonic convulsions (rhythmic muscle contractions) and also occur on both sides of the body.
Several factors need to be considered when choosing an appropriate medication for patients diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. These include the patient's gender, if they have any other chronic conditions, if there are any preferences, and if there have been any adverse events experienced with certain medications.
There aren't any specific medications approved for juvenile myoclonic epilepsy but the FDA has approved levitiracetam as an adjunct treatment for managing the condition. Divalproex has also been approved as an adjunct drug for patients with multiple seizure types, including generalized epilepsies.
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