It is a terrifying experience for family members who witness their loved ones, especially children, have an episode of seizures or further on, be diagnosed with epilepsy.
In many cases seizures that take place at home have not subsequently been picked up in hospitals by even the most sophisticated scanning. This can cause doctors or parents to believe they are imagining that their child has epilepsy. This is a frustrating situation for a parent to be in, and fortunately most doctors will now listen sympathetically to parents and treat them as a primary information source in helping to manage and correctly diagnose their children’s health.
What is a seizure?
Seizures occur when there is a short period of sudden surge of electrical activity from the brain, causing our body to act in a certain way. When someone has a tendency of recurrent seizures over a longer period of time, then it is called epilepsy.
This electrical activity may occur from one small area or the entire brain, this determines if the seizure will occur in one part of the body or be generalized. Although having a single episode of seizure does not mean there will have more seizures, it does however increase an individual’s chances of having more. Seizures are not rare in children, and they do not necessarily mean a dangerous pathology. However, a history of seizures in the family does makes it more likely for them to develop epilepsy.
Causes of Seizures in Children
There are many causes of seizures and epilepsy which vary from newborn to older age however, in many cases the cause of seizures may be unknown.
Common causes are:
- Structural abnormalities in the developing brain,
- Decreased levels of electrolytes in the blood,
- Bleeding in the brain and
- Low blood or oxygen supply to the brain in newborn and infants less than 1 year age There are also a number of causes which affect all age groups including: infections such as meningitis or encephalitis and stroke. Also, within the 60’s age group, brain atrophy and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can cause seizures.
- Space occupying lesions can affect any age group, however in children specific lesions are more prone to causing seizures than other ages.
Diagnosis of Seizures
Diagnosis of seizures can be difficult, as the person having the seizure may not remember what has taken place. Within children they will rely on parents or loved ones to recount this for them and take action.
The doctor will perform a neurological examination including a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain called EEG. Imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required. In paediatrics MRI are preferred due to the absence of radiation exposure, however under 5 years of age MRI requires general anaesthesia. CT is the preferred option in acute settings.
Diagnosis from scans can be open to interpretation and therefore could possible lead to a misdiagnosis. If you’ve visited a doctor and are having doubts, a second medical opinion can reduce the risk of a misdiagnosis by up to 90%. Diagnose.me can help.