All children with epilepsy have seizures, but their symptoms are dramatically different. It all depends on the type of seizure.
The team at THINK Neurology for Kids understands that seizures are incredibly frightening for you and your child. Helping both of you cope with the trauma and overcome the fear is just as crucial as providing personalized treatment that prevents future seizures.
If your child or teen has seizures, you can depend on receiving world-class and compassionate care from our team. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call. We put together this information about epilepsy symptoms and how we can reduce or eliminate them.
Epilepsy in children
When your child has epilepsy, their brain has a sudden surge of electrical activity that causes a seizure. Epilepsy is diagnosed when they have two or more seizures at separate times, and a health problem does not trigger the seizures.
Before diagnosing epilepsy, we do a complete assessment, including a neurologic workup. We perform a mental evaluation and go through a series of simple questions and tests that reveal problems with reflexes, senses, and muscle function.
Then we complete routine and long-term electroencephalograms (EEGs). EEGs are essential for diagnosing epilepsy. They confirm or rule-out abnormal brain activity and they can also reveal the brain area where the seizure began.
A routine EEG is done in the office during your child’s evaluation. Long-term EEGs monitor your child’s brain activity for several hours to days. These EEGs can be ambulatory using a device your child wears at home, done in the office, or as an inpatient. It depends on the length of time we need to monitor their EEG and which choice is best for your child.
One primary symptom of epilepsy
Seizures are the hallmark symptom of epilepsy. However, there are different types of seizures. Each type is defined by factors such as:
- Where the seizure starts in your child’s brain
- Body movements during a seizure
- Levels of awareness during a seizure
Awareness ranges from losing consciousness to staying awake but unaware, to staying awake and alert.
Aura before an epileptic seizure
Some children have symptoms before their seizure; a phenomenon called aura that serves as a brief warning of what’s to come. They may experience unusual smells, sounds, and tastes. Some have strange feelings, feel dizzy, or have an upset stomach.
Eight general symptoms of epilepsy
Our list of eight symptoms isn’t comprehensive, but it gives you a good overview of the most common symptoms from all the different types of seizures:
- Brief muscle twitches
- Limp or rigid muscles
- Unable to move
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of consciousness
- Blanking out or staring (looks like they’re daydreaming)
- Convulsions (muscles stiffen, they lose consciousness, then fast jerking movements)
- Repeated movements (lip-smacking, eye blinking, lip twitching, finger rubbing)
Seizures last anywhere from a few seconds to three minutes. If they go five minutes or longer, you should seek emergency medical care.
After the seizure is over, your child may recover immediately. It could also take them hours or days to return to normal, depending on the type of seizure. They may be confused, tired, or have some memory loss. It’s also common for children to feel depressed, sad, scared, anxious, or embarrassed after a seizure.
Reducing epilepsy symptoms
We reduce epilepsy symptoms by determining the type of seizure, identifying or ruling out any underlying causes, and then developing a customized treatment plan that prevents future seizures.
If we find an underlying medical condition, treating that problem often stops the seizures. Otherwise, we treat seizures using the following options:
Medications are the mainstay treatment for epilepsy. We prescribe one of many possible anti-seizure medications. The best medication for your child is determined by the type of seizure, your child’s age, and whether you find the potential side effects and cost acceptable.
If your child doesn’t respond to the first medication, we change the drug and try again. There’s always some trial-and-error before finding the best medication because each child metabolizes medications differently.
Identifying seizure triggers
Some people, but not all, find that certain things trigger their seizures. If your child has a trigger and you can identify it, you can reduce seizures by avoiding the trigger. The most common triggers include lack of sleep, flashing lights, and low blood sugar.
A ketogenic diet, alone or with medication, can effectively reduce seizures. We give you the information you need to follow this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Then we continue to monitor your child’s health and results carefully.
When medications don’t keep your child’s seizures under control, they may be a good candidate for epilepsy surgery. Epilepsy surgery includes different procedures, from implanting a neurostimulation device that stops the abnormal burst of electrical activity to removing the area of the brain causing the seizures.
If you need exceptional care for a child with epilepsy, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Call THINK Neurology for Kids or request an appointment online today.