December 29, 2010

Sleep Disorder - What is Nocturnal Myoclonus?

Nocturnal myoclonus is where the patient suffers from rapid and recurrent jerking-like movements of the lower extremities.

The rapid movements are usually accompanied by a burning, tingling sensation. This can occur while the victim is asleep, as well as when the victim is awake, but the symptoms usually worsen when a person is trying to rest. Nighttime shows a greater increase in the frequency of nocturnal myoclonus. Moving the affected muscles gives a sense of relief which is however, temporary. 
It is only in very rare cases that the cause of nocturnal myoclonus could be determined. Most cases point to problems regarding a neurotransmitter known as dopamine, being the reason. Nocturnal myoclonus can also be caused as a side-effect of certain drugs like levodopa, cyclic antidepressants and salts of bismuth. Diseases like Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disease and uremia provokes further nocturnal myoclonus, while conditions like pregnancy have been known to aggravate it further as well.  Nocturnal myoclonus is similar to Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) but different from seizures. A seizure is when the patient suffers due to electrical discharges from the brain unlike nocturnal myoclonus. 

Since nocturnal myoclonus can lead to serious problems with sleep disorders, it can be diagnosed. Tetrabenazine is one such drug used.

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