Guest Post by Dr. Chaim Colen
Epilepsy is a condition that often times is misunderstood. To help give you a better understanding of epilepsy we recently discussed 10 things you should know about epilepsy.
In this post I would like to focus on the symptoms of epilepsy. Many parents are unaware or are misled about the symptoms of epilepsy and for this reason epilepsy can go unoticed and untreated for years.
Here are 6 symptoms of epilepsy that you should be aware of:
If your child repeatedly does not answer or respond to you when you are speaking to them, don’t just assume that they are ignoring you. They may be having an Absence seizure. An absence seizure can include staring, speech arrest or no response from the child. During an Absence seizure a child may continue their current activity, such as coloring.
If you are concerned your child may be experiencing an absence seizure give them a simple test. When you think your child is in the process of having a seizure give your child a word to remember, once your child responds to you, ask if they can repeat the word.
These seizures generally last from 2-30 seconds and most often occurs in children aged 5-15 years.
2. Jerking Movements
Quick jerking movements of arms neck or shoulders after awakening may be a sign of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. It will usually occur within a couple hours of awakening, most commonly after a night of insufficient sleep. This type of epilepsy is more common in females. Age of onset is late childhood to early puberty.
Face and cheek twitching or complaints of tingling numbness in the face is a sign of Benign Rolandic epilepsy which typically begins in the face. It can consist of facial twitching, numbness and tingling of the tongue or face, difficulty speaking, or drooling. These seizures are usually mild and tend to occur at night during sleep, making them unnoticed. They can however, progress into a generalized tonic clonic seizure. This type of seizure occurs in children aged 4-12 years old.
4. Infantile Spasms
Infantile spasms commonly begin between the ages of 3-9 months, but can occur up to 2 years old. Symptoms can consist of nodding of the head, bowing forward when sitting, and extending/stiffening the neck, body, arms and legs. Infants may cry out and be irritable during or after a cluster of spasms. These spasms are brief, lasting 1-2 seconds. They will usually occur in the morning after awakening and just after naps during the day.
5. Body soreness or Urine incontinence
If your child awakens complaining of being sore, or having unusual bed wetting during sleep they may have had a generalized tonic clonic seizure. This type of seizure consists of being unresponsive, with full body stiffening and jerking. Urinary incontinence or tongue biting may also be involved. This may or may not be a symptom of the previously mentioned Juvenile Myoclonic epilepsy.
6. Repetitive movements and Confusion
Repetitive movements (such as lip-smacking and fumbling with fingers) followed by confusion may be a symptom of complex partial epilepsy.
Complex partial epilepsy can occur at any age. It may begin with continuous mouth movements, fumbling around with their hands or fingers, or looking around as if confused. Afterward, they will have no recollection of what has occurred.
This type of epilepsy can also evolve into a generalized tonic clonic seizure. Complex partial seizures may begin as simple partial seizures with complaints of having a metal taste in their mouth or have visual hallucinations. During the partial seizure, there is no alteration of consciousness. A complex partial seizure does involve impairment of consciousness.
Chaim Colen, MD, PhD, is the director of neurosurgical oncology and epilepsy surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich. Dr. Colen’s medical publishing company,Colen Publishing, produces patient and resident educational material and operative dictation templates for EMR systems. He is the current chair of the Young Physicians Representative Section of the CSNS and actively involved in socioeconomics in neurosurgery.
Follow Dr. Colen on Twitter: @MyNeurosurgeon