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Posted by ccf neuro M.D.* on November 23, 1997 at 12:05:13:
In Reply to: body spasms/jerking posted by Anne Rosen on November 03, 1997 at 17:49:06:
For the past year and a half I have been unable to get a restful night of sleep. I recently noticed that my body is involuntarily jerking whenever it is relaxed and figured this was also a cause of my sleep problems. The jerking may be anything from a small twitch to an intense jerk in any of my limbs or around my stomach and may be strong enough to move my entire body.
Recently I went to a sleep clinic where I have begun working with a PhD specializing in sleep disorders. He stated that it is possible that I have a sleep disorder called PLMS; however, he stated that the jerking while I am awake is abnormal for most sleep disorders. He said it appears more symptomatic of a neurological problem. He has advised waiting to see a neurologist until sleep disorders have been eliminated; however, his comments have left me wondering and concerned. What, if any, neurological problems is the jerking symptomatic of? Any information about life span, treatments, disability, etc. would also be appreciated.
Thank you very much.
Jerks such as those you describe are known as myoclonus, and are very commonly brought on by fatigue, drowsiness, and just before falling asleep and just after awakening. When these occur in a young person, several disorders come to mind. The most common in teenagers and young adults is known as juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, an often but not always inherited seizure disorder that begins with such jerks and then progresses to cause genralized convulsions (grand mal seizures) and sometimes staring spells also. Fortunately, it is usually readily treated with a drug called valproic acid (Depakote), which controls the seizures in 85%+% of patients. Ceratin sleep disorders can produce myoclonus as well, and on occasion narcolepsy, one such disorder, can produce attacks of sudden loss of muscle tone during the daytime, in addition to all its sleep related symptoms. Other possibilities include much rarer mitochondrial diseases, and certain rare inherited degenerative neurologic diseases such as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. On occasion mere anxiety may cause such jerks, although in that case one would expect them when you are nervous, stressed, and anxious, not as you are falling asleep or relaxed. Stress will, however, often worsen such jerks even in those with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and other myoclonus-producing disorders. If you feel your symptoms are progressing, I would certainly see a neurologist soon, so that the problem can be quickly diagnosed and treated to whatever extent possible. This is particularly important for juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, as you don't want your first seizure to occur, for instance, while you're in your car or at the top of a flight of stairs etc. If you are anywhere near Cleveland and would be interested in seeing a Cleveland Clinic neurologist, we have one of the foremost epilepsy centers in the world. I would recommend, Dr Luders, Dr. Morris, or Dr. Najm in particular as experts for myoclonus and myoclonic epilepsies. If Cleveland is not feasable for you, I would suggest the nearest large teaching medical center near you with an epilepsy program, as such centers will be likely to have a great deal of experience with cases such as yours. Please remember that the information we provide on the forum is intended ofr general medical informational purposes only, and that the actual diagnosis and treatment of your specific medical condition should be strictly in conjunction with your treating physician(s). We hope you find the information helpful.
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