Infant Seizures

Infant SeizuresParents witnessing a child's seizure are likely to feel tremendous upset and grief. However, seizures in infants are far more common than most realize. This does not mean they are to be ignored.  It is important for parents and medical professionals to determine why a baby has experienced one or more seizure events. Of course, knowing what a seizure is makes it easier to understand how they may be related to a host of underlying medical conditions. A seizure is basically a disruption in the signals between brain cells and the other areas of the brain. It is a sort of emergency recognition system that drives all of the energy in the brain to the area where the malfunction is thought to be occurring. This explains why we might lose control of different functions during a seizure - the brain has taken energy away from those usually controls to direct to another region. Sometimes this may not be necessary and therefore prolonged periods of seizure activity are harmful. In fact, some seizures occur specifically because the brain is already damaged and so the redirection of energy cannot do any good or rebalance the system. Additionally, brains may react to outside forces (a blow to the skull, as an example) or to a lack of oxygen and begin to seize in response to these events. Any bleeding in the brain may cause a seizure as well, or when the reverse occurs and there is a lack of blood in the brain. Clearly, the brain is a sensitive organ that can be disrupted easily, but never so easily than during infancy. At this time the skull is not yet fused so the body must endure the pressures of delivery and many outside influences can cause the brain to seize or be harmed.

Common Causes of Infant Seizures

The following issues are commonly related to infant seizures, and while some are predictable and even preventable, not all of them are caught before they create a situation that may lead to a seizure.

Preeclampsia

A mother with high blood pressure during delivery often has preeclampsia. This is a condition in which the pregnancy and the delivery are difficult, and the mother's organs may face a host of damages, particularly the kidneys. A baby born to a mother with preeclampsia may be suffering from hypertension, which can often trigger seizures. Regular checkups during pregnancy can help to identify preeclampsia and to limit the risks to the infant.

Kernicterus

This is a rare, but very risky problem. Related to jaundice, it develops when the material known as bilirubin accumulates in the brain. A baby depends on its mother to process the material, and before and after delivery a baby's body may be unable to purge enough of it. While the first sign may be jaundice, if left untreated it will lead to brain damage, with seizures often being a warning sign that jaundice has turned into kernicterus and medical treatment is required immediately.

Group B Strep Infection

Few women are even aware that they have an overgrowth of the Group B strep in their bodies. There are no signs or symptoms associated with the colonization, and so it is important for a physician to always test patients at roughly 37 weeks. This is the time when the infection can be passed to the baby. The results of a Group B strep infection being passed to a baby include fever, difficulty with breathing, lethargy, pallor, and seizures.

Meningitis

This is a form of Group B, but the term is used when the infection has progressed beyond the point of seizures. It becomes meningitis when the infection has spread into the spinal fluid and the brain, and it is avoidable as long as parents and physicians take action at the first signs of Group B infection.

Cerebral Palsy

The condition known as epilepsy (a seizure condition) is part of the broader condition known as cerebral palsy. This is caused by oxygen deprivation at birth and leads to brain damage. Seizures, as we know, are often due to brain damage and can be a sign that an infant has suffered this birth injury. Source: Mayoclinic.org. Preeclampsia. 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/basics/definition/con-20031644
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