By Judy Li, DO, Pediatric Neurologist, Neuroscience Institute, Valley Medical Center
Could it be a seizure?
This is a question that pediatric neurologists come across on a daily basis. Parents are often the first to recognize a pattern of abnormal movement in their children. Although seizures may take on many different forms, not all “unusual” movements are seizures.
Sometimes seizures can have no movements at all: A child staring off into space and not responding to his/her name, could also be having a seizure. Other times, an episode of fainting or brief loss of consciousness may be a seizure or even a heart-related problem. Children with epilepsy may also have more than one type of seizure.
How do you diagnose a seizure?
There are three basic steps for evaluating a possible seizure. The first step is to see a pediatric neurologist to get a good history and physical exam. Parents who witness the spell or episode should try to jot down any details they remember before going to see a neurologist or physician. If the spell happens quite often or is predictable, taking a video recording of the episode is also very helpful. If the physician finds the child’s history suspicious for a seizure, most children will receive a test that looks at electrical brain activity called an electroencephalogram (EEG). Brain imaging, either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed topography (CT) scan, is also usually recommended. These types of studies are helpful in predicting whether a child will have more seizures in the future and develop epilepsy.
If it’s not a seizure, what could it be?
There are many possibilities.
- For toddlers and young children, the movement could be behavior-related and most will resolve on their own.
- For the school age child, tics and Tourette syndrome frequently will show up at this age.
- For the older child or teenager, some children will suffer from pseudoseizures, meaning the “seizures” are not coming from the brain at all, but could signify emotional stress.
Rarely, other types of movements may represent a more serious neurological condition.
Where can I learn more about seizures and epilepsy?
Like most people, parents often turn to the Internet in search of answers. The best and most up-to-date research on seizures and epilepsy can be found at the Epilepsy Foundation.They also have multiple local chapters and routinely schedule events for people with epilepsy and their caregivers. If you are concerned that your child may be having seizures, please seek medical attention and a pediatric neurologist as soon as possible.
Valley Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute is accredited by the NAEC as a level 4 epilepsy center. Level 4 epilepsy centers have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.
Questions or interested in a consultation? Call 425.656.5566, option 1.