What To Know About Epilepsy In Children

As seen in https://www.medicalnewstoday.com

Epilepsy is relatively common in children. Many children with epilepsy will outgrow the condition before their teens, and, if not, treatments usually ensure a full and healthy life.

In this article, we look at the signs and symptoms of epilepsy in childhood, plus the different types of seizures and syndromes. We also discuss the treatment options for children with the condition.

Epilepsy and children

Epilepsy causes seizures that begin in the brain. It is a neurological condition that almost 3 million people experience in the United States, 470,000 of whom are under 17 years of age. Often, adults with epilepsy have their first seizure in childhood or adolescence.

The Epilepsy Foundation estimate that two-thirds of children with epilepsy outgrow seizures by the time they reach their teens. Most children can eliminate seizures and prevent side effects with an organized system of care.

A doctor may diagnose epilepsy in a child if an individual has had one or more seizures that another condition did not cause. Seizures are more likely to occur during the first year of life.

Epilepsy affects each child differently, depending on their age, the type of seizure they have, how well they respond to treatment, and any other existing health conditions.

In some cases, medication can easily control seizures while other children may experience lifelong challenges with seizures.

Types and symptoms

There are different types of epileptic seizures and various epilepsy syndromes.

The two main types of seizures are focal seizures and generalized seizures.

Focal seizures

Also known as partial seizures, focal seizures affect only one side of the brain. Before a focal seizure, a child experiences an aura that signals a seizure is coming. The aura is the beginning of the seizure.

Auras may include:

  • changes in hearing, vision, or smell
  • unusual feelings, such as fear, euphoria, or a sense of déjà vu

Focal aware seizures only involve one spot or one side of the brain. These seizures typically affect a specific muscle group, such as in the fingers or legs, and do not involve a loss of consciousness.

The person having a focal aware seizure may appear “frozen” and unable to respond but can usually hear and understand things going on around them. Other symptoms include nausea, pale skin, and sweating.

Focal impaired awareness seizures typically cause a loss of consciousness or awareness of the surroundings. Symptoms include crying, laughing, staring, and smacking the lips.

Generalized seizures

Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and usually cause a loss of consciousness. Children are typically sleepy and tired after the seizure. This latter effect is called the postictal state.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, types of generalized seizures include:

  • Absence seizures, also called petit mal seizures, cause a very brief loss of consciousness. The child may stare, blink rapidly, or have facial twitching. They are most common in ages 4–14 and usually lasts less than 10 seconds. Children with absence seizures typically do not have a postictal state.
  • Atonic seizure. During an atonic seizure, a child experiences a loss of muscle tone that comes on suddenly. They may fall down or become limp and stop responding. They usually last less than 15 seconds. These are also called drop seizures.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizure (GTC). A GTC, or grand mal seizure, has phases. A child’s body and limbs will first contract, then straighten, and then shake. The muscles will then contract and relax. The final stage is the postictal period, where the child will be tired and confused. GTCs usually begin in childhood and last 1–3 minutes.
  • Myoclonic seizure. This type of seizure causes sudden jerking of the muscles. Myoclonic seizures usually last 1 or 2 seconds, and many can occur in a short time. People with brief myoclonic seizures do not lose consciousness.

Childhood epilepsy syndrome

If a child displays specific signs and symptoms, a doctor may diagnose them with a childhood epilepsy syndrome.

To make a diagnosis, the doctor will take into account:

  • the type of seizures
  • the age of onset
  • the findings of an electroencephalogram (EEG) that measures brain activity

The different kinds of epilepsy syndromes include:

Benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood

This syndrome can occur between 3 and 10 years of age. It affects 15% of children with epilepsy. Children may have focal seizures at night, which can develop into a GTC.

Rarely, children may have seizures during wakefulness, and these seizures usually involve twitching of the face and tongue. Children may stop having seizures by 16 years of age.

Childhood absence epilepsy

Affecting up to 12% of under 16s with epilepsy, this syndrome begins between 4 and 10 years of age. Up to 90% of children with the condition stop having seizures by the age of 12.

Because absence seizures are so brief, caregivers may not notice that a child is having one.

Infantile spasms

Also known as West syndrome, infantile spasms usually begin before a child is 1 year old. The syndrome causes brief spasms or jerking in one or more parts of the body. The spasms occur in clusters.

Infantile spasms can affect infants who have had a brain injury, and many children with the syndrome have learning difficulties or behavioral problems. They may also develop another epilepsy syndrome known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy

Beginning between 12 and 18 years of age, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy causes different types of seizures, including myoclonic seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, and absence seizures.

Flashing lights can trigger these seizures, or they may occur shortly after waking up.

Juvenile myoclonic is the most common generalized epilepsy syndrome. It often continues into adulthood, but it may become less severe, and medication can control the seizures in up to 90% of cases.

Landau-Kleffner syndrome

This syndrome, known as LKS, is a rare childhood disorder that typically begins between 3 and 7 years of age. It causes difficulties in understanding language and verbal expression. Children with LKS may also have behavior problems.

Approximately 70% of children with LKS have obvious seizures, which are usually focal.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

The typical onset of Lennon-Gastaut syndrome is between 3–5 years of age, although some people do not develop it until adolescence. It can cause several different types of seizures. Many children also have learning and behavior problems.

This syndrome can be challenging to treat, and seizures often continue into adulthood.

Temporal lobe epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation say temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of focal epilepsy, affecting 6 in 10 of those with focal epilepsy.

Symptoms usually occur between 10 and 20 years of age, but it can develop at any time.

As seen in https://www.medicalnewstoday.com

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