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What is Childhood Epilepsy?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Childhood epilepsy is a common form of the disease of the brain that makes a patient experience seizures, which cause a disruption in the brain’s normal functioning and typically affect movement, sensations and consciousness. Most adult epilepsy patients develop the condition in their childhood years. Individuals with childhood epilepsy may develop the disorder from a variety of causes, although not all are known.

Epileptic seizures are seizures that occur more than once and are not the result of a reversible cause such as a fever or low blood sugar levels. Generalized seizures typically affect the entire brain and often include muscle contractions followed by a relaxation phase. Pupil dilation, increased blood pressure and an increased heart rate can also occur with this type of seizure. Partial seizures usually only affect a part of the brain and may include muscle contractions in one leg or one arm. Visual illusions and other abnormal sensations may occur with an epileptic seizure.

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The causes of childhood epilepsy vary from individual to individual and may include a lack of sufficient oxygen during or immediately following birth, a brain development disorder before birth or a head injury. Severe infections of the brain such as encephalitis or meningitis can also result in epilepsy in some instances. Some cases of childhood epilepsy may be genetically related, and the risk of this disease can be higher in children who have a family history of the disease. Epileptic seizures that are triggered by cancer tumors of the brain and seizures that result from a fever may also occur in some children.

Most childhood epilepsy patients are treated with antiepileptic drugs that tend to control seizures in a majority of children. In some instances, epilepsy drugs are not effective enough for some childhood epilepsy seizures, and some doctors may recommend delicate surgery in a child’s brain. The brains of most children have more plasticity than adult brains, and they may be more likely to recover proper functioning after brain surgery. Physicians typically use neuroimaging scans of the brain to identify areas of the brain that are affected by epileptic seizures prior to performing brain surgery. Surgery may include the removal of an affected portion of the brain or a severing of two sides of the brain.

In some cases, children may receive an implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator device. This device sends electronic signals to a child’s brain that may abort many epileptic seizures before they develop. The vagus nerve stimulator is usually implanted outside a patient’s skull, which tends to reduce the chances that neurological damage may occur from the use of the device.

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