Epilepsy can be hidden behind fantasies and inattention

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Epilepsy can be hidden behind fantasies and inattention

Many children tend to daydream and fantasize, get distracted in class and not hear the teacher’s questions. This, according to everyone, was Jasmine Banovich from the UK. For two years, the teachers complained that the girl in the classroom and between them “is carried away into the clouds” and completely “falls out” of the educational process.

Jasmine herself could not explain in any way what makes her distracted. Until the child was finally examined by a neurologist. It turned out that this is how the girl’s epilepsy manifests itself.

30 seizures per day

Because of complaints from teachers, the parents took Jasmine to a therapist to check: maybe the girl just began to hear poorly, and this is the reason for her problems with her studies? The children’s therapist, after testing his hearing and listening to the peculiarities of Miss Banovich’s behavior in the classroom, sent Jasmine to a neurologist. So at the age of 11, it turned out that the girl was suffering from epilepsy.

Apparatus studies in the hospital helped to fully understand the severity of the condition. At the time of examination, latent epileptic seizures lasted from 10 seconds to 5 minutes. The girl could “fantasize” up to 30 times a day. And although such manifestations of the disease are more often observed in children aged 4-7 years, in Jasmine they first became noticeable by 9. Probably, at an earlier age, the seizures were shorter, and parents and teachers did not pay much attention to short-term fading and “fantasies”.

What does a similar attack of epilepsy look like?

Unlike convulsive episodes, the child does not fall during such an attack. From the outside it seems that the baby just suddenly thought, lost interest in the lesson, conversation, got distracted and froze, looks up or to the side, does not respond to the appeal. Sometimes movements of hands and lips may appear.

Usually such an attack is short-lived, 5-15 seconds, and stops on its own. In most cases, adults perceive the presence of seizures as a tendency to be distracted and fantasize.

Due to late diagnosis and the label of a “dreamer” Jasmine had to leave school to be homeschooled at 15. Although her condition improved after starting treatment, it was difficult for the girl to tell her classmates about her illness as a teenager. She was afraid of ridicule and bullying and preferred to live with the stigma of a dreamer.

The first manifestations of epilepsy in children: how to suspect it?

The manifestations of epilepsy at an early age are different from those in adults. In infants, diagnosis is difficult, as the signs of seizures may not differ from the classic movements of a newborn. Although it is generally accepted that epilepsy always has seizures, in reality the symptoms can be extremely varied. In some cases, these seizures do not appear at all.

Generalized seizure is the name of the seizure most commonly associated with epilepsy. The attack begins with tension of all muscles, short-term respiratory arrest. Then comes the seizure stage, lasting from 10 seconds to 20 minutes. The seizures end on their own, the exhausted child falls asleep soundly.

It is worth knowing that under the general diagnosis of epilepsy there are more than 50 diseases with different clinical manifestations. The seizures seen in Jasmine are called non-convulsive generalized seizures or absences (from the French absence , “absence”). At the moment of an attack, children freeze, their gaze becomes disinterested, emotionless , “empty” and absent. You may notice that the eyelids twitch slightly, the eyes may be closed, the head thrown back. At the time of an attack, children do not react to stimuli, words, touches, sounds. At the end of the absence, the baby “returns from fantasies” and again does the same thing as before the attack.

Since the average duration of absence is from 5 to 20 seconds, parents often either do not notice seizures at all, or take them for distraction, enthusiasm for thoughts. The abscess form of epilepsy usually debuts between the ages of 4 and 7, and it occurs in girls almost twice as often as in boys. By the beginning of puberty, seizures can either disappear altogether, or be replaced by another form of epilepsy.

What other variants of epileptic seizures can we not guess about?

Atonic form: When all muscles relax, children lose consciousness and faint for no apparent reason.

Spasmodic form: with “childish spasm” suddenly and sharply tense all muscles or only some groups. It can look like a sudden bending of the arms, pressed to the chest, tilting the head or upper body, straightening the legs. In most cases, these spasms occur in the morning, after sleep, and last for a few seconds. If only certain muscle groups are affected, such as the neck, then the attack looks like an involuntary nod of the head. This form is more often manifested in children 2-3 years old, about 5 they pass completely or pass into another form of the disease. 

In addition to seizures, there may be other symptoms of epilepsy in a child. So, epilepsy is often accompanied by terrible dreams, in addition to nightmares, night walks (somnambulism) can be noted. Another warning sign is a child’s headache , especially if it starts abruptly and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In some cases, epilepsy is manifested by a short-term speech disorder, when the child is conscious, moves, reacts, but cannot talk, answer questions. Such attacks of mutism last up to several minutes. They are not easy to spot and relate to a serious illness.  

To understand what causes recurring nightmares, somnambulism, headache, and other warning symptoms, you need an examination by a neurologist, electroencephalography, computed or magnetic resonance imaging.  

Treatment is based on the cause of the disease and ideally needs to be addressed, not just seizure control and symptom relief. There are many drugs on the market, but they are all different, and a doctor should select an anticonvulsant drug.

In about a third of cases, medications help children recover completely if therapy is started on time and appointments are not ignored. For more complex forms, anticonvulsants reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Treatment is a lengthy process and may take months or several years.

Lack of trace elements can be one of the provocateurs of attacks. Back in 1973, Andre Barbois revealed that zinc deficiency can trigger the development of epilepsy, and magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of seizure activity. Even if the level of magic is close to normal, it can decrease during stress, in hot weather, during physical exertion. That is why magnesium-containing drugs are often included in the course of therapy.

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