Progressive Myoclonic Epilepsy Type 1

In: GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993–2021.
[updated ].


Clinical characteristics: Progressive myoclonic epilepsy type 1(EPM1) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by onset from age six to 15 years, stimulus-sensitive myoclonus, and tonic-clonic epileptic seizures. Some years after the onset, ataxia, incoordination, intentional tremor, and dysarthria develop. Individuals with EPM1 are cognitively mostly within the normal range, but show emotional lability and depression. The epileptic seizures are usually well controlled by antiseizure medications, but the myoclonic jerks are progressive, action activated, and treatment resistant, and can be severely disabling.

Diagnosis/testing: The diagnosis of EPM1 is established in a proband with suggestive findings and either biallelic abnormal CCC-CGC-CCC-GCG dodecamer repeat expansions in CSTB or compound heterozygosity for a CSTB dodecamer repeat expansion and a CSTB sequence variant (i.e., single-nucleotide variant or indel) identified by molecular genetic testing.

Management: Treatment of manifestations: Symptomatic pharmacologic and rehabilitative management, including psychosocial support, are the mainstay of care; valproic acid, the first drug of choice, diminishes myoclonus and the frequency of generalized seizures; clonazepam, approved by FDA for the treatment of myoclonic seizures, is an add-on therapy; high-dose piracetam is used to treat myoclonus; levetiracetam, brivaracetam, and perampanel appear to be effective for both myoclonus and generalized seizures. Topiramate and zonisamide may also be used as add-on therapy.

Surveillance: Lifelong clinical follow up including evaluation of drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Agents/circumstances to avoid: Phenytoin aggravates neurologic symptoms or even accelerates cerebellar degeneration; sodium channel blockers (carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine), GABAergic drugs (tiagabine, vigabatrin), and gabapentin and pregabalin may aggravate myoclonus and myoclonic seizures.

Genetic counseling: EPM1 is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. At conception, each sib of an affected individual has a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier, and a 25% chance of being unaffected and not a carrier. Once both CSTB pathogenic variants in a family are known, carrier testing for at-risk relatives, prenatal testing for pregnancies at increased risk, and preimplantation genetic testing are possible.

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