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Disease: Myoclonus Myoclonus
Category: Bones, joints, muscles diseases
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Disease Definition:

A quick, involuntary muscle jerk is referred to as myoclonus. For instance, the sudden jerks, or "sleep starts," that one may experience just before falling asleep are a form of myoclonus and so are hiccups. These forms of myoclonus rarely present a problem and they occur in healthy people.

An underlying medical condition such as a reaction to a medication or a head injury can trigger more severe types of myoclonus.

A person needs to discover what's causing his/her myoclonus symptoms for effective treatment. Treatment focuses on reducing the effects of myoclonus on one's quality of life if the cause of the myoclonus is chronic or unexplained.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


The following are the characteristics of muscle jerks that are associated with myoclonus:


  • Involuntary
  • Sometimes severe enough to interfere with walking, talking or eating
  • Often limited to one muscle, or initially limited to a group of muscles before spreading to other areas
  • Shock-like
  • Sudden
  • Variable in intensity and frequency

For further evaluation and proper diagnosis, one should talk to the doctor if the myoclonus symptoms become frequent and persistent.


A variety of problems that include the following, may cause myoclonus:


  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Chemical or drug poisoning
  • Metabolic problems
  • Prolonged oxygen deprivation
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Head or spinal cord injury or infections
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Strokes





When a reversible underlying cause can be found such as a medication or toxin that can be discontinued or "flushed out", treatment of myoclonus is most effective. To relieve myoclonic symptoms, doctors have borrowed from other disease treatment arsenals because there are no drugs specifically designed to treat myoclonus.

The following are included in the medications that doctors commonly prescribe for myoclonus:

To treat specialized forms of myoclonus that occur only in children, these medications may be used. Azathioprine, immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg), corticosteroids or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) may be included.

The most common drug used to combat myoclonus symptoms is clonazepam.

In reducing myoclonus symptoms, drugs used to control epileptic seizures have also proved helpful. Levetiracetam, primidone and divalproex sodium are the most common anticonvulsants used for myoclonus.

If only a single area is affected in particular, botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections may be helpful in treating various forms of myoclonus. The release of a chemical messenger that triggers muscle contractions is blocked by botulinum toxins.

Surgery may be an option if one's myoclonus symptoms are caused by a lesion or tumor in his/her spinal cord or brain. 


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