Epilepsy is the most common childhood brain disorder which affects children and adults of all races and ethnic backgrounds. About two-thirds of all children with epilepsy outgrow their seizures by the time they are teenagers. However, it is important for parents to understand why maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring regular medical visits is important to manage epilepsy in kids. (Why nutrition is so important for kid’s health?)
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes a child to have seizures. Also, it is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. The brain consists of nerve cells that communicate with each other through electrical activity. A seizure occurs when one or more parts of the brain has a burst of abnormal electrical signals that interrupt normal brain signals. Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure including head injuries, infections, poisoning or even brain development problems prior to birth. Though, often a cause for the seizures and epilepsy cannot be found. But when a child has 2 or more seizures with no known cause, this is diagnosed as epilepsy. (Which foods are good for brain development?)
Types of Seizures:
There are mainly two types of seizures:
1. Generalized Seizures: It means sudden abnormal electrical activity throughout the brain and it includes tonic clonic convulsions and absence seizures.
2. Partial Seizures: Partial seizures means abnormal electrical activity in just one part of the brain. This can spread to other parts as well and includes partial seizure, complex partial seizure and secondarily generalized seizure.
Some seizures are very short, lasting only a few seconds, while others can last a few minutes. A doctor will typically diagnose a child with epilepsy (also called a seizure disorder) if:
- The child has one or more seizures
- The doctor thinks the child is likely to have a seizure again
- The seizure was not directly caused by another medical condition, like diabetes or a severe infection
Signs of Epilepsy in Kids:
Symptoms or signs of epilepsy in kids usually depend upon the type of seizure. Most likely, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time. Some common signs or symptoms may include:
- Sudden jerks in arms
- Strange feeling
- Sudden blackout & fainting
- Stiffness in muscles
- Twitching or trembling of muscles
- Psychic symptoms
When to see a doctor?
If your child shows any of the following symptoms, then you must visit a doctor:
- Seizure that lasts for longer duration, like more than five minutes
- High fever
- Any injury due to seizure
- Can’t regain breathing or consciousness even when seizure attack stops
- Second seizure follows immediately after the first one
What causes Epilepsy in Kids?
Though a clear cause of epilepsy is not known but the most common cause is an injury to the brain. Other causes include:
- Low oxygen during birth
- Infections such as meningitis and encephalitis
- Brain tumor
- Any kind of brain damage
- Prenatal injury
- Genetic conditions resulting in brain injury such as tuberculosis
Risk factors of Epilepsy:
Certain factors may increase the risk of epilepsy:
- Age: Epilepsy is more common during early childhood or after the age of 60
- Family History: A child with family history of epilepsy is at higher risk of epilepsy.
- Head injuries: Head injuries also increases the risk of epilepsy.
- Stroke & other brain infections
How to diagnose epilepsy in kids?
Initially, your doctor will review symptoms and medical history of the patient and run several tests to diagnose this condition:
- Neurological examination: To review patient’s behavior, motor abilities, mental function and the type of epilepsy.
- Blood tests: To diagnose the signs of infections, genetic conditions, or other conditions that may be associated with seizures.
- Electroencephalogram(EEG): To diagnose epilepsy in which doctors attach electrode to patient’s scalp with paste like substance. These electrodes record electrical activity of brain and help to diagnose the type of seizure.
- Computerized tomography scan (CT): To check the cross sectional images of brain which helps to reveal abnormalities in brain which are responsible for seizures.
- Functional MRI (fMRI): To measure the change in blood flow that occurs in specific parts of the brain and to detect the exact locations of critical functions such as speech and movement.
- Positron emission tomography (PET): A small amount of radioactive material is injected into vein that helps to visualize active areas of brain and detect abnormalities.
- Neuropsychological tests: To assess patient’s thinking, memory and speech skills and to find out which area is more affected.
Treatment of Epilepsy in Kids:
Treatment for epilepsy usually begins with medication. However, it is important to remember that epilepsy is a complex condition and every child is different. Not every child responds to treatment in the same way, so there is no one “right treatment.”
There are many seizure-prevention drugs, called anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) or anticonvulsant drugs, in the market. However, it sometimes takes a while to find the one that works best for each child. These drugs do not change the brain’s underlying susceptibility to produce seizures. Rather, they only treat the symptoms of epilepsy by reducing the frequency of seizures. The medication will not work properly until it reaches a certain level in the body, and it is important to maintain that level. For this reason, it is especially important to follow the doctor’s specific medication instructions.
2. OTHER TREATMENTS:
- Brain surgery
- Medical devices to prevent and control seizures
- Dietary therapies (e.g. ketogenic diet, modified Atkins diet, low glycemic index treatment)
3. Ayurvedic HERBS FOR EPILEPSY IN KIDS:
In Ayurveda, Epilepsy is called Apasmara (Apa = loss, smara = memory, knowledge, or even consciousness). Akshepaka is a condition characterized by seizures. An imbalance of the Vata dosha in Ayurveda creates convulsions. Likewise, an imbalance of Pitta dosha creates loss of consciousness in terms of doshic effect. Now let us understand how some Ayurvedic herbs help with epilepsy:
For thousands of years, the leaves of the herb have been used to treat epilepsy. Brahmi capsule sharpens the brain by protecting cells, increasing learning and memory power. It is very helpful in preventing epileptic fits and other forms of mental diseases such as neuralgia and bipolar disorder.
Ashwagandha is used in traditional medicines to treat epilepsy and modern research may be able to explain how the herb works. In an animal study, a high dose of ashwagandha by itself was able to reduce convulsions, as well as a lower dosage level combined with the pharmaceutical anti-seizure drug diazepam.
Curcumin, a principal compound present in turmeric, has an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. In addition, Preclinical studies have indicated its beneficial effect for the treatment of epilepsy disorders. Moreover, the molecule has an anti-seizure potential in preclinical studies, including chemical and electrical models of acute and chronic epilepsy.
Some side effects of epilepsy medicines include decreased bone mineral density. This condition is called osteoporosis. Shallaki, also known as Boswellia Serrata, is very beneficial to support bone health and also stress management. Maintenance of bone stability is a difficult task but is also essential for the maintenance of overall health and well being of a person. Bones not only work as the frame for body structure but also help maintain the nervous systems in the anatomy. Shallaki helps maintenance of bone health, stress management and is also helpful for the treatment of epilepsy and headache without any adverse side effects.
Also known as Licorice or Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Mulethi is a perennial herb that has traditionally been used to treat many diseases including epilepsy. Being a natural product, these herbs have fewer side effects and improved efficacy as compared to the modern medicines.
4. Foods and Nutrients that help to Manage Epilepsy in kids:
Protein rich foods like chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, rice and green leafy vegetables are very good sources of vitamin B6. This vitamin supports the critical functions of the nervous system. In addition, it also boosts the metabolism of various neurotransmitters required for normal brain function.
Vitamin B3: Niacin
Fish, lean meats, nuts & poultry are high in vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 improves circulation and is very helpful in treating brain related disorders. Moreover, it enhances the treatment of epilepsy when used with anticonvulsants.
Vitamin B9: Folic Acid
This nutrient is very important for a healthy nervous system. But in epilepsy patients, folic acid gets depleted and hence should be taken in the form of foods after consultation with a doctor. Lentils, liver, soy flour, black eyed peas, kidney beans and peanuts are rich in this vitamin.
Vitamin D & Calcium:
Magnesium,Manganese & Zinc:
Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium. They are also antioxidants which protect against cell damage. Manganese plays an important role in cerebral functions and hence an important nutrient for epilepsy patients. Nuts, whole grains, legumes are rich in this mineral. In addition, zinc is required for bone growth and is often deficient in epileptic people. Adding meat, eggs, nuts and legumes in your child’s diet is important.
SCIENTIFICALLY proven studies
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