Medical Q&As

Startle epilepsy - uncommon?

I have startle epilepsy and I am on medication for it. Have you any advice for me? Do you hear of many people with this condition?

As the name suggests, startle epilepsy is characterised by sudden seizures that are triggered by the sufferer being startled. A sudden noise is the usual stimulus for the seizure. The seizure begins with a startle response followed by a brief tonic phase, which means that the personís muscles become rigid. Very often the person falls down and several clonic jerks occur, which means that the personís muscles jerk involuntarily. The episode tends to last less than half a minute in total. People with startle epilepsy tend to have evidence of brain injury such as a developmental delay or a hemiparesis, which means a stroke-like state associated with weakness down one side of the body. In many cases the brain injury may have been experienced within the first two years of life and in some cases may even be due to events before birth. Carbamazepine has been used successfully to control seizures but generally such control can be very difficult to achieve. Surgery has been reported to control seizures in some cases occurring during infancy. Startle epilepsy is not common and I have been unable to obtain any epidemiological data on its prevalence in the community. It might be useful for you to contact the Irish Epilepsy Association who may be able to provide you with further information and support. The association has a website, which can be accessed through the following URL: