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Epilepsy, also called seizure disorder, is a brain condition that causes a child to have seizures. A condition of the nervous system that mainly affects children under five years of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

Some children outgrow their seizures by the time they are teenagers while others have life-long challenges.

A seizure occurs when one, or more parts of the brain have multiple abnormal electrical signals that interrupt normal brain signals. Epilepsy affects each child differently, depending on their age, the type of seizure they have, how well they respond to treatment and any other existing health conditions.

Duration

The duration of seizures varies depending on the affected section of the brain. Some are very short lasting only a few seconds, while others go on for a few minutes. There may be instances of uncontrollable jerking movements, while others cause them to be confused, or stare blankly.

The two main types of seizures are focal seizures and generalized seizures. Focal seizures begin with an abnormal electrical discharge in one small region of the brain. Before a seizure a child experiences changes in hearing, vision, smell, or unusual feelings, such as fear, euphoria, or a sense of déjà vu.

The generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and usually cause loss of consciousness. Children are typically sleepy and tired after the episode.

Main causes

The main causes are either genetics or acquired forms. During fetal development, sections of the brain may not develop as they should resulting in seizures after birth. As a prevention measure, emphasis on prenatal care for expectant mothers is important to support fetal development.

Acquired forms of seizures may originate from birth complications that result in a lack of oxygen for the fetus, neonatal conditions, toxic environments, infections such as meningitis, and malaria amongst others.

Subtle symptoms

Symptoms can be very subtle in babies. Caregivers need to be watchful for changes in breathing patterns, unusual facial expressions, movements of the eyelids, or mouth muscle movements including jerks, bicycling of the legs, or episodes of stiffening. Loss of alertness or difficulty focusing the eyes is another sign of seizures in infants.

Parents and caregivers should be observant when older children appear absent at inappropriate times, such as in the middle of eating, playing, or having a conversation. Periods of rapid blinking, staring, or confusion can also indicate a seizure. A sudden loss of muscle tone, which causes falls is another clue.

Treatment

Treatment for epilepsy usually begins with medication as advised by the health specialist. Advancement in research has ensured reduced side effects of the medicine.

However, it is important to remember that epilepsy is a complex condition, and every child is different. Not every child responds to treatment in the same way.

SOURCE:  Kathrene Oyieke, businessdailyafrica.com, HEALTH & FITNESS

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