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What is Neuromyotonia?

Neuromyotonia is a rare, progressive nerve disorder that causes constant muscle activity and muscle stiffness that cannot be controlled, even during sleep. The condition, also called Issacs syndrome, often affects the muscles in the arms, legs, and trunk, but may affect the whole body.

What Causes Neuromyotonia?

Neuromyotonia is thought to be caused by a generic mutation or by an autoimmune condition where antibodies bind to potassium channels on the motor nerve. In some cases, it develops in association with peripheral neuropathies or after radiation treatment.  Onset is usually seen between the ages of 15 and 60, with many experiencing symptoms before the age of 40.

What are the Symptoms of Neuromyotonia?

Patients may experience muscle twitching, weakness, stiffness, cramping, and slow reflexes. Muscles may quiver or be slow to relax. Patients may also notice increased sweating, heart rate, and skin temperature. Fatigue and exercise intolerance are also common. They may experience problems with chewing, swallowing, speech, and breathing. The disorder often gets worse over time. Symptoms can even occur while a patient is asleep or under anesthesia.

How is Neuromyotonia Diagnosed?

A doctor may order a neurological exam, blood work, and even an MRI to detect electrical signs of muscle activity. The condition is most commonly diagnosed by a neurologist or neuromuscular specialist. It’s a difficult disorder to diagnose and can often be confused with more serious conditions, including ALS or muscular sclerosis.

How is Neuromyotonia Treated?

Treatment targets a patient’s particular symptoms, depending on the body systems impacted. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents can be used to control the muscular and pulmonary progressions of the disease. Anticonvulsants may be used to relieve pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms. Plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulins therapy therapy may also be used to relieve short-term pain.

It can take two or three months for some of the medications to have their full effect. Some patients may need to remain on medication their entire lives, but blood work will be taken periodically to assess changes.

What you can expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. You will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.