Epilepsy in Children: A Most Common Seizure Disorder

Is your child experiencing recurrent seizures? This condition is epilepsy, a condition of abnormal brain activity. There are about 40 types of seizures that fall into two categories.

Generalized seizures: They can affect the whole brain and include infantile spasms, absence and tonic-clonic seizures.

Absence seizures occur when your child appears to be day dreaming. Often they are unrecognized and occur several times a day.

Myoclonic seizures: These are partial seizures that only begin in one area of the brain and they can be complex or simple.

Complex seizures contain temporal lobe epilepsy and psychomotor seizures.

Epilepsy can affect any part of the child’s brain. So, the symptoms vary greatly. Most common symptoms of epilepsy in children include tonic-clonic seizures which usually start with unusual and irritable behavior.

Sudden contraction of the muscles, stiffening the body, and uncontrollable jerks are the most common symptoms observed in children. The child may breathe irregularly, drool, bite tongue or become pale or incontinent. Note that every seizure is different.

Epilepsy can affect at any age, sometimes right from the birth. About 60% of the cases have no obvious cause. Brain damage, malformations of the brain, brain tumor, meningitis, low blood sugar, encephalitis, and poison exposure can all lead to epilepsy. Also, genetic conditions have a great role in inflicting epilepsy.

Most of the seizures occur suddenly, but the most possible triggers include illness, stress, lack of sleep, and light patterns. More than 5% of the people with epilepsy are susceptible to glittering lights.

Treating epilepsy in children

Medications help prevent seizures from reoccurring. But, medications are not prescribed for epilepsy in children. Whether or not to suggest medications and the type of medications will depend upon:

  • Kind of epilepsy
  • Age of the child
  • Presence of behavioral or developmental problems
  • Child’s and the family’s attitude
  • Whether the doctor believes there is an elevated risk of more seizures

During the rare cases of epilepsy, anticonvulsant drugs or brain surgery is considered. It is always a difficult choice for parents to give medications to their children because of potential side effects.

If medications fail to work, then additional options such as surgery, vagal nerve stimulation and ketogenic diet (high fats and low carbs) are suggested.

Epilepsy in children and learning difficulties

Epileptic children have same intelligence and skills as other children. But, some may develop learning difficulties which are due to critical brain abnormalities or frequent occurrence of seizures.

Epilepsy in children and behavioral difficulties

Behavioral difference can occur in both – children with epilepsy as well as normal children. Factors that are responsible for learning difficulties can also cause behavioral difficulties. Besides, lack of discipline and low-self esteem can also cause behavioral difficulties.

Encourage the children to participate in sports. But some activities like swimming, cycling and climbing need special attention in epileptic children.