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Neuromyotonia - An Uncommon Neuromuscular Disorder

Published on Jan 25, 2023   -  5 min read


Neuromyotonia is a neurological problem that affects mainly the muscles. Read below to know a description of it in detail.


Neuromyotonia, also known as Isaacs' syndrome. It is also called continuous muscle fiber activity syndrome. It is an uncommon neuromuscular disorder that results in uncontrollable, continuous muscle contractions of peripheral nerves, even while asleep or under general anesthesia (prolonged unconsciousness due to anesthesia). Over time, the problem gets worse.

Neuromyotonia often affects adults between the ages of 15 and 60, with most cases occurring before the age of 40. It can happen with specific types of cancer and is occasionally hereditary. It affects muscles in the arms and legs, although it may have a broader range of effects. It is a form of the acquired disease in which the muscle's potassium channel is disrupted.

What Are the Different Names of Neuromyotonia?

  • Continuous muscle fiber activity syndrome.

  • Isaacs-Mertens syndrome.

  • Peripheral nerve hyperexcitability syndrome.

  • Syndrome of quantal squandering.

What Are the Functions of the Potassium Channel?

The potassium channel helps to maintain the contraction and growth of smooth muscle. In addition, this channel helps maintain shape and duration of action potential (energy that drives muscle movement). When these channels are disrupted, the muscle continues to contract without relaxation.

What Is the Pathogenesis of Neuromyotonia?

Neuromyotonia is a potentially dependent potassium channelopathy. Some autoimmune (the body's immune system causes damage) or hereditary (runs in the family) diseases can compromise ion channel function. Electrolyte imbalances cause peripheral nerve fibers to become hyperexcitable (hyperactive), which leads to uncontrollable muscle twitching. Muscle fiber hyperexcitability characterizes the illnesses. They are caused due to problems in the H1NT1 gene. Mutation in the H1NT1 gene results in the buildup of harmful substances in the nervous system. This leads to ominous signs and symptoms of neuromyotonia.

What Are the Causes of Neuromyotonia?

The precise etiology of neuromyotonia is unknown. However, according to studies, endogenous and external harmful substances play a significant role in all autoimmune processes.

1. Thymoma - Thymoma is a tumor of the thymus gland. About 20% of patients with neuromyotonia cases have thymoma. Additionally, neuromyotonia symptoms can appear in various neoplastic syndromes (especially small-cell lung cancer).

2. Connective Tissue Disorder - Some systemic connective tissue disorders frequently damage the neuromuscular transmission of signals, leading to the development of neuromyotonia. These include:

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - It is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of connective tissue. It affects the skin, kidneys, blood cells, and joints. In severe cases, it leads to the development of neuromyotonia.

  • Dermatomyositis - An autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and skin rash.

  • Scleroderma - It is a skin disorder that causes skin and connective tissue hardening.

3. Autoimmune disorder - In some individuals with neuromyotonia, symptoms accompany various autoimmune conditions.

  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis - It is an autoimmune condition of the thyroid gland. It affects the thyroid gland affecting hormone production.

  • Autoimmune Gastritis - An autoimmune condition that affects the gastrointestinal system causing inflammation and destruction of tissues.

  • Celiac Disease - A condition caused by an immune reaction to eating gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley).

4. Musculoskeletal Illnesses - Patients with inherited neuropathies can develop Isaac's illness.

  • Chronic Demyelinating Polyneuropathy - A brain disorder that leads to progressive weakness and sensory dysfunction of the muscles of the extremities.

  • Myasthenia Gravis - In myasthenia gravis, fatigue and muscle weakness are present due to communication breakdowns between nerves and muscles.

What Are the Symptoms of Neuromyotonia?

Most people first experience symptoms before the age of 40. Although the symptoms can vary, those who are affected may go through the following:

  • Weakening, cramping, and increasing stiffness in muscle.

  • Muscle twitching (myokymia).

  • Muscular delay in relaxing.

  • Reduced reflexes. Reflexes are protective, the body's involuntary response due to negative stimuli.

  • Muscle wasting.

  • Ataxia (difficulty coordinating voluntary movements).

  • Increased perspiration or sweating, a condition known as hyperhidrosis.

  • If the throat muscles are impaired, speech and respiration may also be impacted.

  • Usually, cardiac (heart) muscles and smooth muscles are unaffected.

What Are the Complications of Neuromyotonia?

  • Muscular twitches may be crippling (inability to walk or move normally), makes a person feel helpless, or result in mental or neurotic illnesses. Patients find regular home tasks difficult; motor abilities show deterioration.

  • Patients limit their social interactions due to apparent muscle twitching.

  • Morgan syndrome occurs in 20 percent of cases of neuromyotonia. In Morgan syndrome, people may have arrhythmia (disturbed heart rhythm), excessive salivation, and prolonged constipation. Patients also experience memory issues, personality changes, and hallucinations as neurological symptoms.

  • The adverse effects of neuromyotonia get worse when patients have concurrent disorders. Thymoma shows complications like myasthenic crises (weakening of muscle), hypergammaglobulinemia (increased antibody content in the blood), and aplastic anemia (anemia that occurs due to decreased blood-forming cells like red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets).

How Is Neuromyotonia Diagnosis?

Since neuromyotonia exhibits typical clinical signs, the primary diagnostic method is to evaluate the neurological condition at the time of initial admission. The degree of reflex preservation, muscular strength, and tone are determined during the neurological assessment. In addition, tests are done to check for movement coordination and posture stability. The following techniques are employed in the second step, which is a comprehensive laboratory and instrumental diagnostics:

  • Electromyography - The study shows the absence of muscular relaxation and that motor units are always active.

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Of the Chest - Due to the high incidence of thymoma in neuromyotonia, computed tomography is performed to determine the size and structure of the thymus gland.

  • Biopsy - A biopsy with the histological (microscopical) evaluation of sectioned tissue. The biopsy is done to rule out the suspected tumor.

  • Laboratory Tests - Various antibodies present in autoimmune diseases are detected through various blood tests.

What Are the Treatments for Neuromyotonia?

In the absence of particular medications, the patient may face difficulty getting ion channels back to normal, which makes treatment of the disease difficult. Controlling symptoms is the cornerstone of a treatment since it helps the patients with their quality of life. For this reason, the neurologist (the doctor who deals with the problem in the nervous system or brain) creates a personalized treatment plan for the patient that comprises the following classes of medications and therapy approaches:

  • Anticonvulsants - These are the primary class of medications that lessen the signs and symptoms of stuttering and myokymia and decrease muscle discomfort.

  • Immunoglobulins - Administration of glucocorticoids or cytostatic immunoglobulins intravenously. They are required to manage autoimmune diseases and are a crucial part of the therapy.

  • Plasmapheresis - It lessens autoimmune damage of ion channels. It removes circulating immune complexes and autoantibodies from the blood.

  • Steroids - Corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications stabilize the condition when connective tissue damage manifests as a symptom.

What Is the Prognosis for Neuromyotonia?

Neuromyotonia has no known treatment. The individuals have an undetermined long-term prognosis that mostly depends on the underlying cause. Although it is typically not fatal, people can lead regular lives with symptomatic treatments. Additionally, spontaneous remission has been noted, while in some cases, symptoms get worse with time. The prognosis of neuromyotonia varies from person to person. It depends on the disorder's severity, its underlying cause, the success of treatment, and any other coexisting medical issues.


Neuromyotonia is a rare disease that requires a neurologist's consultation. The signs and symptoms of neuromyotonia may get worse with time. They may considerably restrict the patient's mobility and hinder regular tasks. Even though there is currently no treatment, the illness seldom results in death. The consulting physician would provide appropriate guidance in the event of diagnosis and check for associated diseases. Early diagnosis and control of symptoms help patients lead a near-normal life.


Last reviewed at:
25 Jan 2023  -  5 min read




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