Amit Ray, M.D., is a board certified neurologist at the Lutheran HealthCare Epilepsy Center who specializes in treating epilepsy. Dr. Ray is also an assistant professor of neurology at NYU Medical Center.
Q. Is epilepsy different in children than adults?
A. Stroke and tumors are often the reasons for seizures in adults. In children, however, seizures may be the result of certain birth defects or brain malformations. Children are also more likely to be diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy – epilepsy with no clear cause.
A child with epilepsy may not have obvious symptoms. Some children only have seizures during sleep. Others "space out," or stare for a few seconds, as many as a dozen to hundreds of times a day. If you or your child's teacher notices your child zoning out or performing poorly at school, he or she may benefit from testing to determine if epilepsy is the cause.
Q. How do doctors determine if a child has epilepsy?
A. The first step is a physical exam by a neurologist. Testing may include an outpatient EEG (a brain wave test) or an inpatient video-EEG (a brain wave test with video monitoring). The neurologist may also request an MRI to obtain a detailed picture of your child's brain. Blood tests may also be necessary.
Q. What should I do if my child has a seizure?
A. If your child is having a seizure, carefully move him or her to a safe place. Cushion the head, and turn your child on his or her side to allow any fluid in the mouth to come out. Do not attempt to restrain the arms and legs, and do not put anything in the mouth.
You can prevent injury during nighttime seizures by padding bedposts and rails.
Q. How else can I keep my child safe?
A. The most important thing is to make sure your child's seizures are controlled. Uncontrolled epilepsy can permanently impair the brain's development, cause injury and even lead to death. Fortunately, most cases of childhood epilepsy can be controlled with medication. Your neurologist will create a treatment plan that includes medication, and you can help by making sure it is taken exactly as prescribed.
Knowing what triggers the seizures will also help. Triggers vary, but common ones include sleep deprivation, stress and illness. If your child has been up late studying, for example, take extra care to make sure he or she stays on track with medication. Some seizures can be triggered by light, so introduce new video games with caution until you know how the game affects your child.
To make an appointment with Dr. Ray, call 718-630-3113. Click here to learn more about our epilepsy services.
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