Epilepsy in Children - Stats, Signs, Causes, and More

11 Jan 2022
Discover 'epilepsy in children: statistics, signs, causes and more'. Empower with knowledge for care.

Top 10 Epilepsy in Children Statistics

Here are the top 10 key statistics about epilepsy in children:

  • Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures due to uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain.
  • Children are more commonly affected by epilepsy than any other age group.
  • An estimated 470,000 children in the United States under the age of 18 have epilepsy.
  • Epilepsy occurs in about 22 out of 100,000 children under the age of 18.
  • Globally, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
  • Over 60% of children outgrow epilepsy before reaching adulthood.
  • The most common type of epilepsy in children is idiopathic generalized epilepsy, representing about 30% of cases.
  • Other common types include symptomatic focal epilepsy (around 18% of cases) and idiopathic focal epilepsy (around 14% of cases).
  • Febrile seizures are a common cause of epilepsy in children and are most common in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
  • Genetic factors play a significant role in the onset of epilepsy in children.

Understanding Epilepsy in Children

Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures due to uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. These irregularities in electricity between brain cells temporarily change the messages sent between cells, resulting in seizures [1]. This condition affects people of all ages, but children are more commonly affected than any other age group.

Prevalence of Pediatric Epilepsy

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition, affecting an estimated 470,000 children in the United States under the age of 18. It occurs in about 22 out of 100,000 children under the age of 18.

Globally, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime, with the highest incidence occurring in early childhood and after age 65. Over 60% of children outgrow epilepsy before reaching adulthood, while others may have to manage the condition for their entire life [1].

Types of Seizures in Children

There are several types of seizures that can occur in children with epilepsy. The most common type of epilepsy in children is idiopathic generalized epilepsy, representing about 30% of cases. Other common types include symptomatic focal epilepsy (around 18% of cases) and idiopathic focal epilepsy (around 14% of cases).

The age when epilepsy in children starts varies, with some symptoms beginning during infancy and others starting during school-age or teenage years [1]. Symptoms may vary widely, from staring spells and temporary confusion to uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs, and loss of consciousness or awareness [2].

Understanding the different types of seizures and their associated symptoms can help parents and caregivers identify early signs of epilepsy in children. Prompt recognition and appropriate treatment can significantly improve a child's quality of life and developmental outcomes.

Causes of Epilepsy in Children

Understanding the causes of epilepsy in children is an essential first step in managing the condition. Several factors can contribute to the development of pediatric epilepsy, including genetic influence, infections and brain damage, and febrile seizures.

Genetic Influence

Genetic factors play a significant role in the onset of epilepsy in children. Some types of epilepsy are hereditary, meaning they can be passed down from parents to their children. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, genetic influence is one of the leading causes of pediatric epilepsy. However, it's important to remember that not all children who have epilepsy have a parent with the condition, and not all children of parents with epilepsy will develop the disorder.

Infections and Brain Damage

Infections that affect the brain, such as meningitis and encephalitis, can also lead to epilepsy in children. These infections can cause inflammation and damage to the brain, which can trigger seizures. Head injuries or brain malformations are other potential causes of epilepsy. Trauma to the brain can disrupt the normal functioning of the neurons and lead to seizure activity. Similarly, malformations in the brain's structure can also result in epilepsy.

Brain conditions like tuberous sclerosis and developmental disorders can also contribute to the development of epilepsy in children. It's also important to note that a seizure can sometimes be triggered by an imbalance of nerve-signaling brain chemicals, brain tumor, stroke, or brain damage from illness or injury.

Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures are another common cause of epilepsy in children. These seizures are often associated with high fever and are most common in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. While febrile seizures can be frightening, they are usually harmless and don't necessarily mean that a child has or will develop epilepsy. However, some children who have had a febrile seizure may be more likely to develop epilepsy later in life.

In many cases, the exact cause of a seizure cannot be determined. However, understanding the potential causes can aid in the diagnosis and management of epilepsy in children. Early recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment can significantly improve a child's prognosis and quality of life.

Recognizing Symptoms of Epilepsy

Detecting early signs of epilepsy in children can be monumentally important towards its management. Symptoms can vary widely and can often be subtle, which makes it essential for parents and caregivers to be aware of the different manifestations of this condition.

Common Signs in Children

When it comes to identifying epilepsy in children, it's critical to note that signs can vary, and they can include staring, rapid blinking, or suddenly stopping an activity, as reported by the Epilepsy Foundation. Children may also exhibit other signs, including staring spells, temporary confusion, and uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs. In some severe cases, there can be a loss of consciousness or awareness.

However, seizures can look different from person to person, and they don’t always involve uncontrolled muscle movements. Some seizures can be subtle and go unnoticed while others can be more pronounced and disruptive.

Varying Symptoms by Seizure Type

Depending on the type of seizure, symptoms can differ.

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures occur in one or more areas of one side of the brain. Symptoms can include altered vision or muscle involvement. Complex focal seizures, which occur in the area of the brain that controls emotion and memory, often cause a loss of consciousness and a range of unusual behaviors.

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures occur in both sides of the brain and can include different types such as:

  • Absence seizures: These are characterized by a brief changed state of consciousness and staring.
  • Atonic seizures: These involve a sudden loss of muscle tone.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures: These are characterized by flexing, extending, and shaking of the body, arms, and legs.
  • Myoclonic seizures: These involve quick movements or sudden jerking of muscles.

Understanding these varying symptoms can help parents and caregivers recognize and respond to a potential seizure in a timely and effective manner.

Treatment Options for Child Epilepsy

While epilepsy in children presents a complex challenge, a range of treatment options is available. These treatments aim to control, stop, or reduce the frequency of seizures and enhance the child's quality of life. The mainstay of treatment is medication, but alternative treatments like specific diets, nerve stimulation, and surgery are also considered.

Medication as First-line Treatment

Seizure medications, also known as anti-seizure drugs or anti-epileptic drugs, are typically the first line of treatment for epilepsy in children. These medications don't cure seizures but control them, requiring a consistent daily intake to maintain an even level of medication in the body.

The type of medication prescribed depends on various factors, including the child's age, overall health, type of seizures, and the potential side effects of the medications. Most medications are to be taken twice a day, while some may need to be taken only once, three, or four times a day [6].

It's important to note that if a child vomits within 15 minutes of taking their seizure medication, the dose can be repeated once. However, continuous vomiting should not result in multiple doses. If vomiting happens more than 15 minutes after taking the medicine, no additional dose should be given, as the medication would have already been absorbed into the system.

Surgical and Alternative Treatments

In cases where medications fail to control seizures effectively, alternative treatments may be considered. Approximately 60% of children's seizures can be controlled with the first seizure medication prescribed. However, if the initial medication is ineffective, the chance of seizure control drops to 10%. If a second medication also fails, there is only a 1-2% probability of controlling seizures [6].

Among the alternative treatments are the ketogenic diet, which has been found to reduce seizure frequency in some children, and vagus nerve stimulation, a treatment that involves sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. In certain cases, surgery may be considered to remove the area of the brain where the seizures originate.

It is crucial to remember that proper diagnosis and treatment by healthcare providers can help manage epilepsy in children effectively, leading to better seizure control and quality of life. Each child's treatment plan should be individualized and reviewed regularly to ensure it continues to be effective as the child grows and their needs change.

Managing Epilepsy in Everyday Life

Epilepsy, one of the most common neurological disorders, can pose significant challenges in a child's daily life. Understanding potential triggers for seizures and the impact of epilepsy on a child's development is crucial for managing this condition.

Potential Triggers of Seizures

Seizures in children with epilepsy can be triggered by a variety of factors. While the exact cause of epilepsy may be unknown in some cases, it can often be managed effectively. Physicians may rely on information from parents and other family members to identify potential triggers and formulate appropriate treatment strategies.

Common triggers include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Illness or fever
  • Stress
  • Bright lights, flashing lights, or patterns
  • Caffeine, alcohol, drugs
  • Certain foods or medications

It's important to note that triggers can vary from child to child. Parents and caregivers should maintain a detailed record of their child's seizures, noting any potential triggers. This record can be a valuable tool for healthcare providers in managing the child's epilepsy.

Impact on Child Development

Epilepsy and its treatment can significantly impact a child's development, with potential neurological, cognitive, and behavioral side effects. According to a study cited on PubMed, the interplay of epilepsy and its treatment can affect various aspects of a child's life, including their academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being.

Potential impacts include:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavioral problems
  • Emotional issues
  • Social challenges

It's important for parents and caregivers to work closely with their child's healthcare team, which may include neurologists, psychologists, and educators, to address these challenges. With appropriate management and support, children with epilepsy can lead fulfilling and successful lives.

References

[1]: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12252-epilepsy-in-children

[2]: https://www.epilepsy.com/parents-and-caregivers/kids/treatment-options

[3]: https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/data/index.html

[4]: https://www.epilepsy.com/parents-and-caregivers/kids/symptoms

[5]: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/seizures-and-epilepsy-in-children/

[6]: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/specialties/epilepsy-center/seizure-information-for-parents/seizure-treatment

[7]: https://www.epilepsy.com/parents-and-caregivers/kids/causes-epilepsy-childhood

[8]: https://www.massgeneral.org/children/epilepsy/education/causes

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