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Seizure Disorders and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that are usually caused by some amount of injury to the brain or head before, during, or shortly after birth.  Since the disorder is caused in this manner, many people with cerebral palsy suffer from seizures as well.  In the traditional sense, cerebral palsy is not a seizure disorder like epilepsy.  Cerebral palsy may be mistaken for such a seizure disorder, but cerebral palsy is a non-progressive group of disorders.  Thus, the symptoms of cerebral palsy do not get worse or better over time.

Seizures in cerebral palsy and other seizure disorders take place when there is some overactivity or misdirected activity of electricity in the brain.  People with cerebral palsy can later also develop some forms of epilepsy.  These people who develop the seizure disorder epilepsy, and have cerebral palsy, usually have a much more variable rate of exhibiting symptoms.

Two types of seizures that are common in people with cerebral palsy are the tonic-clonic (or “grand mal”) seizure and the partial seizure.  Both types of seizures can be very disconcerting both for the person who has them and their family members.  These seizure disorder symptoms can be especially troubling in children.

Tonic-clonic seizures are very severe.  The seizure is brought on, and the person cries out suddenly, or shouts.  This may be followed by a loss of consciousness, a passing out and fainting.  After this the person begins to shake violently and may twitch and convulse for some time.  After the seizure is over the person usually regains consciousness but is confused and usually has no memory of the seizure occurring.

Partial seizures can happen in a few different ways but can generally fall into the categories of simple and complex.  These types of seizures can range in severity and are often seen in people with seizure disorders and in many people with cerebral palsy.  The person who has a partial seizure usually has a body part that twitches or shakes and becomes numb.  This seizure victim also usually becomes forgetful, confused, they may suddenly walk differently or even hallucinate.

An EEG exam should be given if seizures, or seizure disorders, are suspected, especially when they are in conjunction with cerebral palsy.  A seizure may also be diagnosed by having an experienced doctor observe for symptoms such as excessive lip smacking or a pedaling motion of the legs.  Often seizure disorders are hard to diagnose in children and newborns.  A constant, repeating motion of the limbs usually signals a clonic type seizure.  A tonic seizure involves a limb-spasticity.

If you suspect your child may have either a seizure disorder or seizures related to cerebral palsy then you should bring them for a thorough check up.  Only with a long-term observational testing period can you be certain.  Your doctor should be careful in making hasty diagnoses regarding seizure disorders in young people.

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