Epilepsy and Seizures

Seizures (convulsions) can be a scary experience, both for the child and the parent, especially the first time one occurs.

What should you do? What triggers a seizure?

What is a seizure?
A seizure is an abnormal or excessive neuronal activity in the brain. Some of the brain’s cells lose their normal electrical activity and create a type of ‘electric storm’ in the brain. The event is sudden and involuntary. It can occur in any part of the brain. The seizure can manifest itself in different ways – involuntary movement, altered mental state, a full body clump and more.

Seizures can be divided into two groups:

  • Generalized Seizures
    There are a number of types of generalized seizures.

    Tonic-Clonic Seizure
    This is the most common seizure type. A child will suddenly lose consciousness and fall over. The body gets tense and rigid, the mouth will close shut, and sometimes the lips will turn blue. Afterwards, the hands and legs will convulse (sometimes the person will bite their tongue). Not all tonic-clonic seizures are similar and some children may only experience some of the symptoms. In most cases, the seizure only lasts for a few minutes. After the seizure, the muscles relax and there tends to be a lot of drool. The child will most probably be exhausted and confused.

    Absence Seizures
    They are also called Petit Mal. The child will lose his grip with reality, and look as though he is staring absentmindedly into space. The episode usually lasts around 20 seconds. Afterwards, the child will return to normal.

    Myoclonic Seizures
    These are brief, involuntary, quick and sudden convulsive jerks, which last less than a second.
  • Partial Seizures (also called Focal Seizures)
    These manifest in several ways

    Involuntary seizure of one or more extremity without the loss of consciousness Altered mental state, which includes memory problems, lack of response and staring

    There is no reason to worry about swallowing the tongue during a seizure – it becomes rigid in the mouth and will not fall back. Lying the child down on his side will prevent the airway blockage.

What causes seizures?
There are many possible causes for seizures, and in most cases, the exact cause is not known. Some cases have a genetic connection, even if the family has no history of seizures. Causes can include an infection in the brain, head injury, high fever, sugar imbalance, congenital defects and more.

What tests will my child have to get?
Blood Tests: Blood count (may indicate an infection), general biochemistry, blood sugar and sodium levels.
EEG: This exam checks the electrical activity in the brain. Electrodes are attached to the child’s head and they read the electrical currents in the brain. The test takes an hour and the child will not experience any discomfort.
Brain Imaging: CT or MRI.

Other tests may be required as well.

Treatment Methods
Sometimes the child will need to be hospitalized, in order for the doctors to monitor his progress.

The doctors will try to identify the trigger, and if they are able to do so the child will be prescribed with the appropriate medication (such as antibiotics for a brain infection). If the trigger is not identified (most cases), the child will be released.

If a child suffers from a prolonged seizure, he will receive immediate treatment.

What Should You Do If Your Child Is Seizing?
Clear the area of sharp and pointy objects. Surround your child with soft objects such as pillows and blankets to avoid any other injuries. Lay the child down on his side, with his mouth facing downward. Do not force his mouth open. Do not try to subdue the child while he is seizing. Do not give any liquids or medication orally during the seizure. Call for help or go to the emergency room.

If your child suffers from seizures, do not leave him alone at the pool, the bathtub or any small enclosed space. Mountain climbing and diving are not recommended. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

Does My Child Suffer From Epilepsy?
There needs to have occurred two seizures whose triggers remain unknown. The doctor may be able to diagnose the exact type of epilepsy.

How Do We Treat Epilepsy?
In most cases, the doctor will prescribe preventative treatment to prevent future attacks. The doctor will explain about each one. The drugs lower the attack incidence and prevent them for 75%-80% of epilepsy patients. If a child goes two years without a seizure, then the doctor may decide to ease them off the medications.

Following two years without seizures, the chances of recovery are very good and the child can have a normal life. Children with more severe seizures may need to undergo surgery.

When calling the appointment center, please specify Epilepsy Clinic if you would like to make an appointment with one of our doctors.