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What is Epilepsy?
What are seizures?Seizures are changes in awareness or behavior brought about by an abnormal discharge of electrical energy in the brain. A seizure may last a few seconds, a few minutes or longer. It might be a convulsion, a brief stare, and unusual movement of the body, or an unusual sensation. Seizures are a common disorder of childhood and adolescence. Some seizures happen because of a very high fever. Some happen because of an illness that affects the brain. Epilepsy is the name given to seizures that happen more than once in an otherwise healthy youngster, or when the child has a physical condition that causes seizures from time to time.
Why are seizures sometimes hard to recognize?Not all seizures are convulsions. Seeing a child in the grip of a convulsion is a frightening experience for parents and almost always ends with a visit to the doctor. But convulsions are just one type of seizure that a child or teenager may have. Other kinds of seizures are hard to recognize because they last such a short time and they look so much like the normal things that children do. The following are some of the signs that may mean a young child is having seizures:
- Short attention blackouts that look like daydreaming.
- Sudden falls for no reason.
- Lack of response for brief periods.
- Dazed behavior.
- Unusual sleepiness and irritability when wakened from sleep.
- Head nodding.
- Rapid blinking.
- Frequent complaints from the child that things look, sound, taste, smell or feel funny.
- Clusters of grabbing movements with both arms in babies lying on their backs.
- Sudden stomach pain followed by confusion and sleepiness.
- Repeated movements that look out of place or unnatural.
- A blank stare, followed by chewing, picking at clothes, mumbling, random movements.
- Sudden fear, anger, or panic for no reason.
- Muscle jerks of arms, legs, or body especially in the early morning.
- Odd changes in the way things look, sound, smell or feel.
- Memory gaps.
- Dazed behavior. Being unable to talk or communicate for a short time.
Why is it important to recognize childhood seizures?Early recognition and treatment is important because a child who goes on having seizures because nobody has noticed them may have to face additional problems later on, problems like:
- Learning Disabilities - because those brief blanking out seizures are making it difficult to follow instruction and understand the lessons at school;
- Safety risks - because sudden loss of awareness in certain situations (like while climbing or in water) can lead to injury; Behavior problems - because the world seems disorderly. The child keeps missing things other people have understood, and doesn’t know why;
- Social problems – because the child, his family, and others with whom he comes in contact will not understand the cause or nature of unusual actions or behavior.