What is a syndrome?
A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that, added together, suggest a particular medical condition. In epilepsy, examples of these signs and symptoms would be things like the age at which seizures begin the type of seizures, whether the child is male or female and whether they have physical or learning disabilities, or both. The results of an electroencephalogram (EEG) are also used to help identify epilepsy syndromes.
If you would like to know more about an epilepsy syndrome, please speak to your doctor. If you would like to know more about epilepsy in general, please contact Epilepsy Action.
Other names for Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME)
- Janz syndrome
Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME)
This is a common epilepsy syndrome that begins anywhere between the ages of eight and 26 years. But it usually starts between the ages of 12 and 16. It is more common in girls than boys.
People who have JME have three types of seizures: myoclonic, tonic-clonic and absence seizures.
Myoclonic seizures cause you to have sudden jerks of your muscles, either in your arms, legs, face or whole body. These seizures usually happen soon after you wake up and possibly when you are getting dressed or having breakfast. You may also have them in the evening if you are tired.
Two thirds of all people with JME also have tonic-clonic seizures. They usually happen in the morning, within an hour or two hours of waking up. You are more likely to have these seizures if you have been to bed late the night before, or have woken up earlier than usual.
About one third to one half of children and young people with JME also have absence seizures. These can happen at any time of the day, but are most likely in the morning.
Photosensitivity means that the myoclonic or tonic-clonic seizures are triggered by flickering or flashing light. It affects around four out of 10 people with JME. Photosensitivity will usually show on the electroencephalogram (EEG) if you have JME.
It is important that the doctor making a diagnosis has a full account of what happens to you during your seizures. This is especially important if you are having any myoclonic or ‘jerk’ seizures, which can be easily missed.
If you have JME, the EEG is usually abnormal, and shows epileptic discharges coming from both sides of your brain at the same time. These are called generalised discharges.
Epilepsy Action has more information about photosensitivity.
Many people with JME have their seizures controlled with epilepsy medicines, particularly sodium valproate (Epilim). Sometimes lamotrigine (Lamictal) may be taken. Other medicines, including levetiracetam (Keppra) and clonazepam (Rivotril), may also be helpful.
Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy medicines.
Around eight out of every 10 people with JME need to take epilepsy medicines for the rest of their lives. If the medicine is stopped, it is common for seizures to return.
Living with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
If you have JME, you are likely to have seizures if you don’t get enough sleep. Drinking alcohol can also make your seizures more likely.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank
- Dr Richard Appleton, and Dr Rachel Kneen, consultant paediatric neurologists at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, UK and
- Dr Stewart Macleod, consultant paediatric neurologist at Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow, UK.
They have kindly prepared the information on this page. It is based on their own research, experience and expertise.