Children who have experienced at least two seizures in their lifetime may be diagnosed with a seizure disorder, also commonly known as epilepsy. When a child has a seizure, changes in the electric activity of his brain can cause him to convulse, pass out or simply stare into space. A seizure disorder can be a frightening thing for a child to have, but with treatment and support, many children go on to live a seizure-free life.
Types of Seizures
While there are several types of seizures, a child with a seizure disorder will usually have the same type over and over. Seizures can involve either the entire brain or only a part of it. Generalized seizures, which affect the whole brain, include tonic clonic or grand mal seizures, absence or petit mal seizures and atonic seizures. Grand mal seizures cause a child to pass out while his body becomes stiff and jerks, according to MayoClinic.com. During an absence seizure, a child may stare off into the distance and barely move. A child may suddenly collapse during an atonic seizure. Partial seizures can change a child’s senses or emotions or cause him to pass out.
What Causes It
The cause of seizure disorders in most children over the age of 2 is usually unknown, according to the Merck Manual. Infants may have a seizure disorder caused by a high fever or trouble getting enough nutrients. In some cases, a seizure disorder can be the result of a prenatal injury, such as cerebral palsy, according to MayoClinic.com. Certain genes may also make a child more likely to have epilepsy.
Risks and Complications
Since a seizure can cause a child to lose control of her muscles, some otherwise low-risk activities can be extremely dangerous for a child with uncontrolled seizures. For instance, a child can drown if a seizure happens while she is swimming or bathing. A child can also injure herself if she falls during a seizure and hits her head or another part of her body. In rare cases, a child may experience status epilepticus, or a seizure that goes on for longer than five minutes. Status epilepticus can cause a body to overheat and can lead to brain damage if not treated.
Diagnosing and Treating A Seizure Disorder
Since a child is usually not able to recall or describe what happens during his seizure, doctors usually need reports for others who saw the seizure to determine what sort of seizure it was. Blood tests, an electroencephalogram, which measures electrical activity in the brain, imaging and memory tests are all used to diagnose a seizure disorder. Anti-seizure medications usually help children with a seizure disorder, but they are not without side effects. A child needs to take his medicine exactly as directed for it to work effectively.
Before and After a Seizure
Some children may experience premonitions, known as an aura, that a seizure is about to occur. Some may smell an unusual odor or feel a tingling sensation. After the seizure is over, most children will feel confused and not remember what has happened. Muscle pain and headaches are common after a seizure as is weakness in one-half of the body.