Focus On: With Dr. Sadek
It is estimated that 1 in 5 children will experience a solitary seizure—most commonly triggered by a fever or infection—but only 1 out of every 200 children will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Childhood is a very common time of life for seizures. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children will experience a solitary seizure—most commonly triggered by a fever or infection—but only 1 out of every 200 children will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Children with structural defects of the brain, developmental delays, or abnormal EEGs (electroencephalogram) are more likely to have further seizures. Other causes of seizure can include infections of the brain or trauma. Childhood seizures often are influenced by a genetic tendency, and genetic testing may be helpful in certain situations.
There are several different syndromes of childhood epilepsies ranging from convulsive seizures to more subtle "absence" type seizures. These seizures are often characterized by subtle lapses in awareness and "staring spells." Sometimes there will be accompanying body movements such as body twitching or eye blinking. An accurate description of what your child does during the seizure is important, and videos can be very helpful. An EEG can be most helpful to determine the type of epilepsy your child may have and if it is consistent with a specific "syndrome" (common types include benign rolandic epilepsy and childhood absence epilepsy). Childhood epilepsies can vary in terms of severity and prognosis, with some syndromes being relatively benign and often outgrown and other rare severe forms with numerous daily seizures resistant to medication.
While some epilepsies can be outgrown there are several types that may continue into adulthood. Proper diagnosis and characterization of syndrome is often helpful in aiding the prognosis. Most childhood epilepsies are treated with anti-seizure medications, although in hard to control seizures surgery is sometimes considered.. Some childhood epilepsies can respond very well to a specialized diet called a ketogenic diet. Along with seizures themselves, children with epilepsy often struggle with learning difficulties, behavioral issues, and social problems.
Navigating pediatric epilepsy can be challenging, and working with a good neurologist specializing in epilepsy is critical in helping to determine syndrome type and also the necessity of medications.