Seizures and Epilepsy
Sometimes a child will have a seizure during the course of an illness with a high fever. These are called febrile seizures (febrile is derived from the Latin word for "fever") and can be alarming to the parents and other caregivers.
In the past, doctors usually prescribed a course of anticonvulsant drugs following a febrile seizure in the hope of preventing epilepsy. However, most children who have a febrile seizure do not develop epilepsy, and long-term use of anticonvulsant drugs in children may damage the developing brain or cause other detrimental side effects.
Experts at a 1980 consensus conference coordinated by the National Institutes of Health concluded that preventive treatment after a febrile seizure is generally not warranted unless the following conditions are present:
- A family history of epilepsy
- Signs of nervous system impairment prior to the seizure
- A relatively prolonged or complicated seizure.
The risk of subsequent nonfebrile seizures is only 2 to 3 percent unless one of these factors is present.
Researchers have now identified several different genes that influence the risk of febrile seizures in certain families. Studying these genes may lead to new understanding of how febrile seizures occur and perhaps point to ways of preventing them.
Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition that can develop in pregnant women. Its symptoms include seizures and sudden elevations in blood pressure. Pregnant women who develop unexpected seizures should be rushed to a hospital immediately. Eclampsia can be treated in a hospital setting and usually does not result in additional seizures or epilepsy once the pregnancy is over.