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Symptoms and Signs of Seizures in Children

Doctor's Notes on Seizures in Children

Seizures represent abnormal brain activity that leads to a change in movement, focus or attention, or level of awareness. There are different kinds of seizures in children that can occur in different parts of the brain. Many conditions can cause seizures in children, and some examples include fever, infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, neurological or developmental problems, or head trauma.

Effects of seizures may be localized (affecting only part of the body) or widespread (affecting the whole body). Associated symptoms and signs depend on the exact location of the brain that is involved but can include convulsions, loss of awareness, staring or blinking, muscle spasms, repetitive movements, rolling eyes, and rhythmic jerking. The child may be confused after the seizure and may not remember the event.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/20/2019

Seizures in Children Symptoms

Seizures in children have many different types of symptoms. A thorough description of the type of movements witnessed, as well as the child's level of alertness, can help the doctor determine what type of seizure your child has had.

  • The most dramatic symptom is generalized convulsions. The child may undergo rhythmic jerking and muscle spasms, sometimes with difficulty breathing and rolling eyes. The child is often sleepy and confused after the seizure and does not remember the seizure afterward. This symptom group is common with grand mal (generalized) and febrile seizures.
  • Children with absence seizures (petit mal) develop a loss of awareness with staring or blinking, which starts and stops quickly. There are no convulsive movements. These children return to normal as soon as the seizure stops.
  • Repetitive movements such as chewing, lip smacking, or clapping, followed by confusion are common in children suffering from a type of seizure disorder known as complex partial seizures.
  • Partial seizures usually affect only one group of muscles, which spasm and move convulsively. Spasms may move from group to group. These are called march seizures. Children with this type of seizure may also behave strangely during the episode and may or may not remember the seizure itself after it ends.

Seizures in Children Causes

Although seizures have many known causes, for most children, the cause remains unknown. In many of these cases, there is some family history of seizures. The remaining causes include infections such as meningitis, developmental problems such as cerebral palsy, head trauma, and many other less common causes.

About one fourth of the children who are thought to have seizures are actually found to have some other disorder after a complete evaluation. These other disorders include fainting, breath-holding spells, night terrors, migraines, and psychiatric disturbances.

The most common type of seizure in children is the febrile seizure, which occurs when an infection associated with a high fever develops.

Other reasons for seizures are these:

  • Infections
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Drugs
  • Medications
  • Poisons
  • Disordered blood vessels
  • Bleeding inside the brain
  • Many yet undiscovered problems

Epilepsy Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Slideshow

Epilepsy Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Slideshow

Epilepsy is a group of related disorders in the brain's electrical systems that are characterized by a tendency to cause recurrent seizures. Seizures cause changes in movement, behavior, sensation, or awareness, including loss of consciousness or convulsions, which last from a few seconds to a few minutes in most individuals. Seizures may occur in children and adults.

Epilepsy is not a form of mental illness or intellectual dysfunction.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

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