When parents hear the word "epilepsy," it typically triggers images of severe seizures – the ones that are easy to identify, involving a child falling, getting stiff and shaking all over. But the truth is, there are over 300,000 children and teens in the U.S. with epilepsy, and not all of them display such obvious signs of their medical condition.
"Seizures are quite common, particularly in children," explains Dr. Michael Duchowny, Medical Director of the Epilepsy Center at Miami Children's Brain Institute at Miami Children's Hospital, the nation's first comprehensive medical program dedicated solely to pediatric neurosurgery and neurosciences. "Seizures can be caused by many things, including head injuries, high fever and certain kinds of infection. It's also one of the biggest indicators of epilepsy."
Miami Children's Hospital Brain Institute treats children with complex forms of epilepsy from all around the world, said Dr. Duchowny. "Some of our biggest successes are children who could not be helped at other facilities," he noted.
Signs of a Neurological Problem
Children with epilepsy have the best chance for a normal life when their condition is treated as early as possible. Epileptic seizures that go untreated can eventually become more frequent and harder to control.
Here are some signs your child might be having an epileptic seizure:
- They suddenly jerk head forward when sitting, or grab at nothing when lying down.
- They suddenly stare off into space.
- They fall suddenly without reason.
- They suddenly begin nodding head, as if they are falling asleep.
- They pick at their clothes, mumble or say things that don't make sense.
- They roll eyes and blink repeatedly.
- They complain of tongue hurting.
What to Do if You Suspect a Problem?
All children may fall or space out at some point, just like all babies jerk sometimes. The key is looking for repetitive behavior that doesn't seem right," explained Dr. Duchowny. "You shouldn't panic if your child displays one of these symptoms a single time, but rather remain observant for additional signs that something may be off."
A first seizure can be a sign of a problem needing immediate attention. It's important to know the signs so that your child can receive the proper medical care early.
SOURCE Miami Children's Hospital