(Disorder, Seizure—Child; Epilepsy—Child)
A seizure is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure disorder is when 2 or more seizures happen. This is also known as epilepsy.
Abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain.
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Seizure disorder is caused by abnormal brain function. It can be hard to find the cause. Some things that may play a role are:
Things that may raise a child's risk are:
- Premature birth or low birth weight
- Damage to the brain during birth
- Abnormal brain structure
- Traumatic brain injury
- Brain infection
- Brain tumor
- History of seizures due to fevers
- Seizure within the first month after birth
- Family history of seizure disorder
Symptoms depend on the type of disorder a child has. They may be:
- Aura—a feeling at the start of a seizure, such as an odd smell or sound or spots in front of the eyes
- Staring, eye blinking, or eye rolling
- Loss of consciousness
- Jerking of a limb
- Jerking of muscles
- Hand rubbing, lip smacking, or picking at clothing
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Feeling very tired or confused after a seizure
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) will be done to confirm the diagnosis. It looks at the electrical activity of the brain.
Images of the brain and structures around it may also be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done with:
The goal of treatment is to control seizures and improve quality of life. Treatments choices are:
There are medicines that are used to manage seizure disorder. The medicines that are chosen depend on the type of seizures and symptoms a child has. Antiepileptic medicines are a common choice. In some children, more than 1 medicine may be used.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
With VNS, a device is implanted in the chest to give electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain to beyond the stomach. VNS can prevent seizures or make them happen less often. Medicine may still be needed.
A ketogenic diet is very strict. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and proteins. It can decrease the frequency of seizures. Since children need proper nutrients, a dietitian will need to be involved.
Surgery may be done if medicine does not help or causes too many side effects. It removes the area of the brain that starts the seizure. Surgery is only an option if the child has specific parts of the brain involved.
There are no known ways to prevent seizure disorder.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education
Epilepsy. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Epilepsy.aspx. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-children. Updated March 22, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Moshé SL, Perucca E, et al. Epilepsy: new advances. Lancet. 2015 Mar 7;385(9971):884-898.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 6/10/2020