A Parents Guide for Epilepsy

As a parent of an epileptic child, it is necessary that you understand this disorder, its causes, and various treatment options available to you. Given below is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions regarding epilepsy in young children?

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy or seizure disorder is a neurological disorder affecting the nervous system. A patient is diagnosed as suffering from epilepsy if he/she has had at least two seizures that were caused by reasons other than some known medical condition such as extremely low blood glucose levels.

What is a seizure?

A seizure can be loosely defined as a sudden change in behavior due to a temporary burst of electrical activity in the brain. Some interesting facts about seizures are:

  • Seizure, doctors state, is not a disease, but a symptom of a disorder affecting the brain
  • In most cases, the exact cause of seizures is not known
  • Nearly 50% of all people who have had one seizure due to an unknown cause will experience at least one more seizure, or in other words, will become epileptic. The risk of another seizure, in case there’s a history of a seizure in the past, is significantly greater in patients who suffer from a known brain abnormality
  • Nearly 80% of all people who have had two seizures will experience more seizures

Is epilepsy contagious?

Absolutely not. Many parents fear that if one child has epilepsy than other siblings may acquire this condition from the affected child. This fear, although understandable, is completely baseless. Epilepsy is not contagious and cannot be acquired from others.

What are the common comorbidities of epilepsy recorded in young children?

Doctors list the following as comorbidities of childhood epilepsy: anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity syndrome, sleep problems, depression, learning disability, and migraine.

It is necessary to understand that epilepsy is not the cause of these conditions. Instead these conditions, more often than not, are caused by the same thing that causes epilepsy.

What are the causes of epilepsy in children?

Diagnosing the cause of epilepsy in children, doctors state, is difficult. It is estimated that the cause of epilepsy in at least 50% of epileptic children is not known. In other 50% of epileptic children, the condition occurs due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Severe brain or head injury
  • Certain genetic factors
  • Meningitis or certain other illnesses related to the brain
  • Prenatal problems affecting the brain

Are epileptic seizures of different kinds?

Epileptic seizures can be categorized into two distinct categories: partial seizures and generalized seizures. In the case of the former, only a part of the patient’s brain is affected by the temporary surge of electricity. Generalized seizures are those in which the whole brain is affected by the sudden burst of electricity. Generalized seizures can be further categorized into the following two types:

1. Absence seizures – When an absence seizure occurs, the child abruptly stops doing the activity he/she was involved in. The child’s face almost becomes blank. This type of seizure usually last for less than half a minute.
2. Tonic clonic seizures – When a tonic clonic seizure surfaces, the child exhibits one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Extremely strained breathing
  • Rigid muscles
  • Falling down
  • Turning blue due to strained breathing

An episode of tonic clonic seizure rarely lasts for more than half a minute.
How can I help my child when he/she experiences an epileptic seizure?
Doctors recommend that you do the following in case your child experiences a tonic clonic seizure:

  • Remove any objects from the vicinity of your child with which he/she can hurt himself/herself
  • Put a soft object such as a pillow under your child’s head
  • Ensure that your child lies sideways during an epileptic seizure
  • Do not insert anything in your child’s mouth
  • Seek emergency medical help if the seizure lasts for more than 2 minutes
    In case of an absence epileptic seizure, there is not much you are required to do, other than comforting him/her after the episode is over.

What are the different treatments available for the treatment of epilepsy in children?

Anticonvulsant medicines, such as valproic acid, phenobarbital, carbamazepine, and others, have been found very effective in controlling epilepsy in children. Research shows that nearly 75% of children enjoy a better life style from a treatment consisting of one or more anticonvulsant drugs.

However, the downside is that these drugs can sometimes cause severe side effects such as insomnia, hyperactivity, increased risk of liver damage, low white blood cell count, problems with balance, or weakened bones.

The following alternative treatments have been reported to be effective in treating epilepsy in children:

  • Ketogenic diet
  • Vagal Nerve Simulator

Due to the risks associated with anticonvulsant drugs, more and more parents today are looking for alternative modes of treatment that are healthy for children yet still affective.

About the Author:

Pete Markovic is the publisher of www.goodhealthword.com and is passionate about living life to the full with the best of nutrition, fitness and general health advice.

About Arlene Martell

Arlene Martell is the publisher of EpilepsyMoms.com and the author of Getting Adam Back – A Mother's triumph over Epilepsy and Autism. She resides in a seaside suburb on Vancouver BC Canada with her husband James and their four children Adam, Justin, Shelby and Victoria.