Epilepsy hits kids
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Thousands develop ailment each year :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Epilepsy is much more common than we think and yet, it is a disease still surrounded by fear and stigma. Here are a few basic facts about the illness which is the third most common neurological ailment after stroke and Alzheimer's disease.
Think of the brain, which is the nerve center, as a machine that relies on electrical currents to send out messages to the body. Those messages, which travel through neurotransmitters, allow you to think, remember, respond, perceive and generally function. For those with epilepsy, the normal communication is interrupted by electrical discharges, akin to power surges. These discharges disturb the brain's functions and can result in seizures.
Seizures are actually quite common-one in 10 Americans will experience at least one in his or her lifetime as a result of fevers or illness, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. But to be diagnosed with epilepsy, a person has had at least two seizures within a year not traced to any other illness. They can be so subtle that the person may be the only one aware it is occurring. They can also range from several seconds to several minutes and from a momentary staring to a drop attack, where the person falls and loses consciousness.
For children, epilepsy is frequently developed in childhood-from 10,000 to 30,000 American children each year. The rate of epilepsy is highest from birth to age 2 and declines with age. At any point, as many as 2 percent of children suffer from epilepsy. But it is not always a long-term illness, from 60 to 75 percent of epileptics outgrow the illness five years after diagnosis.
In about 70 percent of epilepsy cases, the cause is unknown; the rest often result from head trauma. Only in rare cases is epilepsy a result of genetics. The illness can be treated by medicine, surgery, electrical stimulation therapy or a special diet. Children with epilepsy can lead normal and healthy lives without being labeled different. And, for the most part, these children can participate in all activities, games and sports.