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Our Neuroscience Center of Excellence
Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery

Epileptic Conditions We Treat in Children

Neurologists at the South Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center are experts in diagnosing [link to testing & diagnosis page] and treating [link to treatment page] a wide variety of pediatric epilepsy conditions and other seizure disorders.

Epileptic seizures [link to health tools article] are unique to each patient. In a single day, a child may have numerous seizures that last only seconds, going unnoticed by others around them or the child may have a violent seizure lasting anywhere from one to five minutes or more.

Seizure symptoms in children may include a blank look, staring off into space, falling to the ground or shaking uncontrollably. Certain epileptic episodes may cause a loss of consciousness or impaired awareness. Details about symptoms, duration, severity and number of seizures play a role in helping to identify the type of seizure a child is experiencing.

Any change that affects the connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure. Epilepsy is suspected when at least two or more seizures have occurred at least 24 hours apart, often with no apparent cause.

What Causes Seizures in Children

Although this seizure disorder is common, its cause in each child is different. Some epileptic conditions are challenging and it’s difficult to pinpoint why the seizures are happening. With the use of advanced technology and neurological imaging tools, our epileptologists are able to diagnose and help children with complex cases.

Our epilepsy specialists study and carefully analyze your child’s brain activity to determine the cause and type of epilepsy your child is experiencing. Regardless of the cause of seizures, the goal for all our patients is to provide treatment therapies that stop or significantly reduce the number of seizures to improve quality of life.

The most common causes of childhood epilepsy include:

  • Head injury
  • Infections of the brain
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Disorders of brain development
  • Genetic disorders
  • Excess water in the brain cavities
  • Stroke

Epilepsy patients are at higher risk for a seizure when they’re tired, stressed or when they stop taking medication.

Types of Epilepsy in Children Are Varied and Complex

Epilepsy seizures are classified as focal or generalized seizures. [link over to video, shows adult but mentions children also] A focal seizure (partial or local seizure) happens when electrical disturbances impact a specific area of the brain.

A generalized seizure in children affects both sides of the brain. There is now a third category called unknown onset seizures. This is the case when no witness is present to describe the specific symptoms when the seizure begins.

Focal seizures can occur without the loss of consciousness or they may create impaired awareness. They tend to be brief, lasting only seconds to less than two minutes.

  • Focal onset aware seizures (simple partial seizures) can change a child’s emotions and cause them to feel dizzy, see flashing lights or have a tingling sensation. It can affect their sense of smell, taste or sound. Despite being alert and able to interact with others, the child’s arms or legs may jerk involuntarily.
  • Focal Onset Impaired Awareness (complex partial seizures) can involve a loss of consciousness. The child may simply experience a state of confusion or their awareness is lessened is some way. A child may perform repetitive movements (chewing or lip-smacking), repeat words that don’t make sense or wander around looking confused.

Generalized Onset Seizures affect groups of cells on both sides of the brain. These seizures are categorized as it relates to the type of movements, motor symptoms or non-motor symptoms that take place during the seizure.

The major categories of generalized seizures have these characteristics:

  • Absence seizures: Staring into space, minimal body movements
  • Can cause brief loss of awareness
  • Typically last only a few seconds
  • Formerly called petit mal seizures
  • Myoclonic seizures: Involuntary twitches or jerks of arms and legs
  • Lasts about one to three seconds
  • Clonic seizures: Repeated, jerking muscle movements of the neck, face and arms
  • Lasts anywhere from a few seconds up to two minutes
  • Tonic seizures: Muscles in the back, arms and legs stiffen
  • Falling to the ground
  • Typically less than 20 seconds
  • Tonic-clonic seizures: Loss of consciousness with convulsions
  • Body stiffening and shaking
  • Previously called grand mal seizures
  • Usually less than 20 seconds
  • Typically lasts one to three minutes
  • Atonic seizures: Muscles suddenly become limp
  • Falling to the ground
  • May remain aware or briefly lose consciousness
  • Drooping eyelids or nodding head
  • Typically last less than 15 seconds
  • Also called drop seizures

The type and location of the seizure within the brain will determine how each epilepsy condition, or epilepsy syndrome, is treated. Successful treatment for epilepsy conditions, depending on the severity, may involve only one medication, multiple anticonvulsant medications, minimally invasive procedures, major brain surgery or a combination of treatment therapies.

Epilepsy syndromes in children are usually characterized by a grouping of specific features. The major considerations in addition to type, cause and location of the seizures are:

  • Age at which the seizures begin
  • If the seizures are inherited
  • Specific patterns on the EEG (electroencephalogram)
  • Unique brain imaging results from an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan or
  • From a CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Circumstances that trigger the seizures
  • Severity and frequency of seizures
  • The likelihood of the seizures lessening or increasing

Various types of epilepsy can cause development problems. It may affect your child’s ability to pay attention in school or impact learning and memory. Getting an early diagnosis for your child is important.

After our medical team analyzes the results of diagnostic tests and EEG video monitoring sessions, multiple epilepsy specialists from University Health System’s South Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Center [link over to facilities page] consult and recommend an individual treatment and medical management plan for each child. Some of the pediatric epilepsy and seizure disorders we treat include:

  • Angelman Syndrome
  • Autosomal Dominant Nocturnal Frontal Lobe Epilepsy (ADNFLE)
  • CDKL5 Disorder
  • Childhood Absence Epilepsy
  • Childhood Epilepsy with Centrotemporal Spikes aka Benign Rolandic Epilepsy
  • Doose Syndrome
  • Dravet Syndrome
  • Early Myoclonic Encephalopathy (EME)
  • Epilepsy of Infancy with Migrating Focal Seizures
  • Epilepsy with Eyelid Myoclonia (Jeavons Syndrome)
  • Epilepsy with Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizures Alone
  • Epilepsy with Myoclonic-Absences
  • Epileptic Encephalopathy with Continuous Spike and Wave During Sleep (CSWS)
  • Frontal Lope Epilepsy
  • Glut1 Deficiency Syndrome
  • Hypothalamic Hamartoma
  • Infantile Spasms (West’s Syndrome) and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
  • Juvenile Absence Epilepsy
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
  • Lafora Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome
  • Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS)
  • Neurocutaneous Syndromes
  • Ohtahara Syndrome
  • PCDH19 Epilepsy
  • Panayiotopoulos Syndrome
  • Progressive Myoclonic Epilepsies
  • Rasmussen’s Syndrome
  • Reflex Epilepsies
  • Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome
  • SCN8A-Related Epilepsy
  • Sunflower Syndrome
  • TBCK-related ID Syndrome
  • Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE)
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