Epilepsy is the general term for a set of neurological disorders whose main symptom is seizures. For a diagnosis of epilepsy to be a made, a person should have suffered at least 2 seizures that were not provoked by other factors, that is the seizures should be spontaneous. A seizure happens when there is a problem with the signals in the brain. Epilepsy is more common in older people but also occurs in children. Childhood epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder affecting infants and children.
Cases have been reported of infants having seizures within the first few days of being born. Such seizures are not indicative of epilepsy but could be brought on by severe stress during birth, a temporary problem with the brains neural activity which resolves itself, serious chemical imbalances in the brain, or an infection or deficiency in Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient used in the formation of brain neurotransmitters which are brain messengers and therefore allow nerve and brain cells to communicate.
Seizures in childhood have also been found to have a genetic link. These types of seizures are called benign neonatal seizures.
Even though childhood seizures are more often than not associated with specific causes, a number of causes of childhood epilepsy have been identified.
The most common cause of childhood epilepsy has been found to be fevers, like the ones experienced during illness. The seizures that are caused by fevers are called febrile seizures. A child often outgrows this type of seizures. Medication is only used to treat these types of seizures if the last more than 15 minutes.
Brain injury is also a common cause of epilepsy in childhood.
Infections of the brain can at times bring on a bout of childhood epilepsy. These include infections such as meningitis and encephalitis. The seizures caused by infections sometimes stop when the infection is cured. If a mother is infected with herpes simplex, HIV, rubella and other infections while pregnant, the infections may cause the child to suffer seizures.
Hydrocephalus, which is the name given to the medical condition characterized by excess cerebrospinal fluid accumulating in the brain cavities or brain ventricles, may also cause childhood epilepsy. The build-up of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) causes increased intracranial pressure, which may then lead to seizures. Cerebral palsy, another medical condition has also been known to cause epileptic seizures.
Malformations in the brain, which may be spontaneous or genetic, may be still another cause of childhood epilepsy. The malformations occur during the gestation period.
Other less common causes of childhood epilepsy include brain cysts, brain tumors or degenerative disorders of the brain cells. Brain injury, malformations in the brain and nutritional deficiencies will typically cause seizures in infants and toddlers while infections, degenerative disorders and genetics will typically cause seizures later in childhood.