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Common Causes of Seizures

Seizures occur when there’s a sudden surge of abnormal electrical activity in your child’s brain. While seizures usually don’t last long, they’re frightening for parents and children because of the changes they cause, from uncontrollable shaking to losing consciousness.

THINK Neurology for Kids specializes in treating children with seizure disorders. We understand that one of the first things parents want to know is what caused their child’s seizure, so we wrote this blog to give you the information you need. 

We also want to let parents know that in this time of social isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19, they can still get medical care and support for their child through telemedicine.

Top three causes of seizures

The cause of a seizure can’t always be determined, but when there is an identifiable reason, it’s often due to one of three health conditions:

1. High fever

Seizures caused by a fever, called febrile seizures, affect 3-4% of all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. However, they most often occur in infants aged 12-18 months.

Febrile seizures typically occur in the first few hours after your child develops a fever and last less than a minute. 

Parents should be prepared for the possibility of a second febrile seizure. Children who are younger than 1 year old when they have their first febrile seizure have a 50% chance of having a second occurrence. The risk drops to 30% for those who are older than 1 year at their first febrile seizure.

2. Traumatic brain injury

Children who suffer a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have a seizure within minutes of the injury or the seizure may be delayed, occurring after a week. The chances of having a seizure depend on the child’s age, the type of trauma, and if the injury caused bleeding in the brain.

Post-traumatic seizures are diagnosed in about 37% of children aged 2 years and younger who suffer an accidental TBI without bleeding. That number drops to 16% in children aged 14-17 years old. The incidence of post-traumatic seizures can rise to a little more than half in young children with bleeding.

3. Infections

Central nervous system infections such as meningitis and encephalitis can cause acute seizures. Children who have encephalitis may have a seizure while they’re ill, but they’re also at risk for seizures after the acute infection heals because their brain cells are more likely to produce bursts of abnormal activity.

Other causes of seizures

Though they’re less common causes, there’s a very long list of health problems that can result in seizures in children and teens, including:

Disorders that interfere with the metabolism of amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates often trigger a seizure. Additionally, seizures may develop in children who have low levels of blood sugar and imbalances of electrolytes such as calcium, sodium, and magnesium. Anything that disrupts the normal connections between nerve cells can result in a seizure.

Epilepsy versus seizures

Epilepsy and seizures are often confused for the same condition, but there are differences between them. Your child is diagnosed with epilepsy when they have two or more recurrent seizures that aren’t caused by a known medical condition.

However, many of the same health conditions that cause seizures are risk factors for epilepsy. For example, when a child’s first seizure occurs due to a traumatic brain injury or infection, they’re more likely to develop epilepsy.

Epilepsy also encompasses more than seizures. This complex disease is closely connect with comorbidities such as:

The Epilepsy Foundation estimates that one-third of children with autism spectrum disorder may have seizures.

Help for seizures is available via telemedicine

As we post this blog, we’re still practicing social isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19, so it’s important to know that you can still get help without coming into the office. If your child has suffered a condition that increases their risk for seizures, had a seizure, or is diagnosed with epilepsy, call THINK Neurology for Kids and we’ll tell you how you can schedule a telemedicine appointment with one of our physicians.

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