A seizure is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. When 2 or more seizures occur, it is considered a seizure disorder, also known as epilepsy. While there are many different types of seizures, the main categories are:
Seizure disorder is caused by abnormal brain function. It is often difficult to identify the exact cause, but some factors that may play a role include:
Factors that may increase your child's chance of seizure disorder include:
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizure disorder. These may include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests evaluate the brain and surrounding structures. These may include:
Your brain may be tested. This can be done with:
You will work with the doctor to choose a treatment plan that is right for your child. Treatments options include:
There are many different kinds of medications to treat seizure disorder. The exact medication will be based on the specific type of seizures and symptoms your child has. Anti-epileptic medications are a common option. In some cases, anti-epileptic medications may be used in combination.
If medication does not work or the side effects are too severe, your child may need surgery. Surgery involves the removal of the area of the brain that starts the seizure. Surgery is only an option if your child has localized areas of the brain involved.
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. Stimulation can prevent or decrease the frequency of seizures. Medication may still be needed.
A ketogenic diet is a strict diet. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and proteins. It keeps the body’s chemical balance in a state of ketosis. Ketosis decreases the frequency of seizures. If you would like your child to start this diet, talk to the doctor. Since your child needs proper nutrients, you will need to work with a dietitian.
Your child's doctor may ask you to keep note of what was happening when your child had a seizure. This may help identify and make plans to avoid seizure triggers. These triggers can vary from child to child but some examples include:
Help your child to decrease the chance of a seizure by:
Other things to consider:
There are no known ways to prevent every type of seizure disorder. You can take steps to prevent your child from brain injuries or conditions that could lead to seizures:
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 September 15, 2015.
Growing up with epilepsy: activities, safety, and first aid. Massachusetts General Hospital website. Available at: http://www2.massgeneral.org/childhoodepilepsy/overview/index.htm. Updated November 20, 2006. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Living with epilepsy. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/23068986. Updated June 5, 2015. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Neal EG, Chaffe H, Schwartz RH, et al. The ketogenic diet for the treatment of childhood epilepsy: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Neurol. 2008 May 2. [Epub ahead of print]
Seizure in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T550165/Seizure-in-children. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Seizures. Boston Children's Hospital. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/seizures. Updated 2010. Accessed September 15, 2015.
5/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T550165/Seizure-in-children: Quet F, Guerchet M, Pion SD, Ngoungou EB, Nicoletti A, Preux PM. Meta-analysis of the association between cysticercosis and epilepsy in Africa. Epilepsia. 2010 ;51(5):830-837.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.