Understanding and Treating Epilepsy
By John Lehman
Some children who suffer from cerebral palsy have a chance of developing epilepsy, a seizure disorder brought on by brain injuries or certain neurological disorders. In fact, children and adults with cerebral palsy have a significantly higher chance of developing epilepsy than those not suffering from the disorder. Although there is still much to learn about epilepsy even today, there have been many advances in diagnosing and treating the condition.
Epilepsy is usually identified after the victim has received more than two randomly occurring seizures. When a person suffers from a seizure, the brain receives an overload of electronic signals powerful enough to disrupt normal brain functionality. This typically results in unconsciousness, involuntary muscle movements or spasms, emotional outbursts and loss of memory, though it varies depending on the person and the severity of the seizure.
If you are concerned about your child having seizures, or your child has experienced his or her first seizure, set up an appointment with your doctor immediately. When children with cerebral palsy are experiencing seizures, a doctor can perform an EEG exam to assess their condition. Using a recording device, your doctor will scan your child’s brainwaves for abnormalities. Once the scan is complete, the data will be sent to a neurologist for analysis.
Types of Seizures
For those suffering from cerebral palsy, seizures associated with epilepsy are often categorized into two distinct types. Symptomatic seizures are identified as such when there is a specific, identifiable cause such as a disease or abnormality in the brain. Cryptogenic seizures, on the other hand, have no directly identifiable cause. These seizures are also known as idiopathic seizures. In these cases, doctors tend to look into the patient’s family medical history to see if the seizures are genetic.
Treating Seizures and Epilepsy
Once a seizure has begun, there is no way to stop it. Instead, the best thing you can do to help is to ensure your child is safe and comfortable. Clear the environment of potential hazards that could physically harm your child, as their uncontrolled movements could lead to cuts and bruises. Provide them with a pillow or a blanket so they may rest comfortably once the episode has passed. Contrary to popular belief, never attempt to stick anything in your child’s mouth when they are suffering from a seizure, as this could lead to serious injury (including choking or damage to teeth).
A single seizure is indeed a cause for alarm, but it may not be indicative of a seizure disorder. Remember that a doctor will likely not diagnose the condition as epilepsy if this is your child’s first seizure. In the case of a second or even third seizure, your child’s doctor will consider different forms of treatment, such as antiepileptic medications. If these do not prove effective, the doctor may recommend surgery.
There are other methods available to reduce the likelihood of a seizure occurring, including maintaining a healthy diet, keeping a balanced sleep schedule and exercising regularly. Your child’s doctor should be able to advise on which treatment is the best fit for your child’s condition.
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