Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes a sudden change in consciousness, movement, or sensation, also known as a seizure. The seizures are not painful, but are very hard to live with.
Not all seizures are caused from epilepsy, so if your toddler has a seizure, don’t panic. There could be many other reasons for the seizure; hypoglycaemia, an electrolyte imbalance, a high fever, or meningitis are all possibilities. Additionally, a seizure can be caused by an injury to the head or brain.
If your toddler has more than one seizure and the above mentioned causes are ruled out, he could be diagnosed with epilepsy.
In the majority of cases, doctors do not know what the cause of a child's epilepsy is. This is referred to as idiopathic epilepsy. In cases where the seizures are a result of a head or brain injury, it is called symptomatic epilepsy.
Diagnosis of epilepsy is made when a CAT scan, MRI, or EEG shows that there are interruptions in the electrical activity of the brain. The tests are painless and will usually be accompanies by a physical examination as well as various blood tests.
When epilepsy is diagnosed, anti-epileptic or anticonvulsant drugs are most often prescribes. These drugs reduce the interruptions of electrical activity, thus reducing the number of seizures. There are some side effects though, so finding the best drug can be a challenge.
Diet can also play a role in treatment. For children with epilepsy, a low carbohydrate, low protein, high fat diet (called a ketogenic diet), combined with drug treatment has been shown to help reduce and even eliminate seizures. There is also an electrical treatment available to adults and children over age 12. The treatment is called vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS. As a last resort for children who do not respond to diet and medication, surgery is sometimes an option.
If your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy, make sure that his medication and diet recommendations are followed exactly as prescribed. You can also keep a log of seizure activity so you can see if there is a pattern. Sometimes, an epileptic child will have seizures when they get overexcited or stressed. If you know this is a cause, you can try to limit stimulation and stressful conditions.
Lastly, it’s important to know that a child can grow out of epilepsy, so it may not be a lifelong condition for your child.