Suffering from epilepsy can be challenging not only for the patient but also for the people around them. Epilepsy is a condition that occurs due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, also known as seizures. The neurological brain disorder affects 50 million people worldwide, as per the World Health Organization (WHO). However, in this article, we will discuss Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME), which is a hereditary and generalised form of epilepsy. To help us understand the condition in more detail, the OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Dr Atma Ram Bansal, Associate Director - Epilepsy Programme, Institute of Neurosciences, Medanta, Gurugram.
Also Read: Epileptic Fit: Here Are Its Signs, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment
What Is Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME)?
Also known as Janz syndrome, JME is a common generalised epilepsy disorder that typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood. It is characterised by quick jerking movements and twitches that are difficult to control. According to Dr Bansal, JME typically begins between the ages of 12 -18. However, some children can begin experiencing symptoms even at the age of 8-9 years. One of the most concerning aspects of the seizures in JME is that they can occur at any time, but are most prevalent in the morning, shortly after waking up, says the doctor.
Types Of Seizures In JME
Different types of seizures that can help identify JME are:
- Seizures or jerking movements that occur within 1-2 hours of waking up in the morning
- Shock-like movements in both arms
- Random jerks in any part of the body
- Big seizures like grand mal seizures (generalised tonic-clonic movements), characterised by a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions
- Short sudden lapses of consciousness, also known as absence seizures
Causes & Triggers
According to Dr Bansal, the exact cause of JME is unknown, some people may be more susceptible to the condition due to their genetic makeup. In addition, certain factors can trigger episodes of seizures, these include:
- Lack of sleep
- Mental or emotional stress (due to excitement or frustration)
- Physical stress, such as fatigue or fever
- Alcohol consumption
- Hormonal changes during puberty and menstruation, etc.
In some cases, seizures can be triggered by flashing lights or dark patterns, such as strobe lights at dances, TV and video games, or light shining through trees or reflecting off the ocean waves or snow.
JME can be diagnosed by different methods. These include:
- Understanding medical histories, such as past illnesses and treatments
- The use of an electroencephalogram, which records brain waves or measures the electrical activity of the brain
- Blood tests help to rule out other conditions that can cause seizures
What Parents Can Do To Help?
Dr Bansal says, "JME in children is a life-long chronic condition. However, many children go on to live normal lives after taking a few precautions to keep them safe." These include:
- Taking medications as prescribed by a neurologist
- Avoiding triggers
- Taking precautions while swimming, bathing, etc.
With the help of seizure medications, many children/young adults with JME can gain partial or complete control over their seizures. Patients with multiple seizure types may require a variety of seizure medications to control their seizures, adds the doctor.
Also Read: Epilepsy Has Several Types, How Are These Diagnosed? Doctor Answers
When Should Parents Seek Medical Help?
Dr Bansal advises seeking immediate medical care if:
- The child experiences seizures that last for more than 5 minutes
- Repetitive seizures with no consciousness in between
- Troubled breathing
- Bluish lips, tongue and face
Steps To Control Seizures In Children
Here are some immediate measures to take, as recommended by the doctor:
- Gently placing the child on the floor or ground while removing nearby objects
- Laying the child turned to one side to prevent choking
- Loosening the child's clothing around the neck
- Ensuring that the child is breathing
- Waiting for seizures to stop before giving any medicine in the form of pills or liquid
- Keeping track of how long the seizures last
- Making a video of the event, if feasible
- Let the child rest after a seizure
Apart from all the above-mentioned points, note that JME can be managed through lifestyle changes. The doctor advises parents to maintain a regular sleep schedule for their children, manage their stressors, and prohibit them from consuming alcohol or any form of drugs. Parents need to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop an individualised treatment plan for their child.