Recent research has found that the growth and development of the brain is a process that occurs over many years, with the most dramatic changes taking place in the womb and through the first 18 months following birth. By the time a child is 5 or 6, the brain has increased four-fold in volume from its size at birth. It is during this period of dramatic brain growth and change that children are most vulnerable to experiencing seizures.
Seizure incidence peaks in the first year of life and remains at a high level up to about age 4. Some seizure syndromes occur at specific developmental stages and at no other time in life. They include syndromes most commonly associated with neonates less than 2 months old , infants between the ages of 2 months and 1 year old, and toddlers between ages 1 and 4 .
The causes, diagnostic tools and management of seizures in very young children are extremely wide ranging. Seizure diagnosis is complicated because babies and infants cannot yet adequately communicate to others what they are experiencing or how they feel as a reaction to various diagnostic tests.
Seizure therapy in some special cases may not be necessary. However, most children with seizures will benefit from anticonvulsant medication or other treatment options.
When neonates have seizures, these seizures are frequently the symptom of a more dangerous condition that may require prompt treatment, whereas older children are more likely to need treatment to stop the seizures so as to prevent or reduce further disability as they grow older.
Regardless of cause or diagnosis, goal of treatment should be no more seizures and no side effects . Parents play a critical role in helping toward this outcome as they are the best observers of their child’s seizures and responses to treatment, and, as such, they should work with the treating physician toward helping their child achieve the best possible balance between treatment side effects and quality of life.