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Epilepsy is a condition of the brain that is characterized by recurrent seizures. Seizures are common in childhood and adolescence. A seizure may take many different forms including a blank stare, muscle spasms, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, or a convulsion. Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. Epilepsy that begins in childhood is often outgrown.

What are the signs of childhood seizures?

Seizures take many different forms. A seizure may last for a few seconds and involve a blank stare or a sudden fall. It may last for a few minutes and involve a convulsion or random purposeless movements such as chewing motions or pulling at clothing.

Signs that may indicate that a child is having a seizure include:

In Babies

• clusters of bowing or bending movements while a baby is sitting

• clusters of grabbing movements with both arms while a baby is lying down

In Children and Adolescents

• a sudden loss of awareness that may appear like daydreaming

• a brief lack of response

• memory gaps

• rhythmic head nodding

• rapid blinking

• repeated movements that appear unnatural

• repeated jerking movements of the body, arms, or legs

• unusual irritability and sleepiness when awakened from a sleep

• sudden falls without an apparent reason

• sudden stomach pain followed by sleepiness and confusion

• frequent complaints that things taste, sound, smell, look, or feel strange

• sudden fear, panic, or anger without an apparent reason

What causes epilepsy and seizures?

The causes vary according to the age of the onset of epilepsy

• Genetic

• Birth injury (e.g. lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain at birth)

• Developmental disorder (e.g. brain damage to the fetus during pregnancy)

• Brain trauma (e.g. from car accidents, sports injuries)

• Infection (e.g. meningitis, encephalitis, AIDS )

• Brain tumor

What is the treatment for epilepsy?

In well over half of those with epilepsy, seizures are controlled with monotherapy or the prescribing of one drug. In others, polytherapy or the prescribing of more than one drug, is effective in controlling seizures

Surgery is considered in up to 15 percent of individuals with epilepsy when treatment with various seizure medications does not result in an individual being seizure free.

Depending on the type of epilepsy, most children will outgrow their epilepsy and they will be able to discontinue their medication. For others, excellent control of seizures will continue for years with regular use of seizure medication. Other children will benefit from surgery or from a specialized approach combining medication with surgery in order to obtain optimal control.

For more information, click here (Guide for parents)