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My 3–year–old daughter had what appeared to be seizures during a recent, feverish bout with the flu. Her pediatrician recommended an EEG and a CT scan of her brain. Are these two tests enough to diagnose her problem? How are seizures treated?

If your daughter’s seizures were brief, generalized convulsions associated with high fevers, it is possible that she had febrile seizures. These occur in normal children when they have high fevers and do not necessarily need treatment. They are not uncommon, and children outgrow them, usually by age 6.

Your physician probably ordered the tests to find out if she might have some form of epilepsy, with a tendency for seizures without fever. About 2 percent of the population has some form of epilepsy. An electroencephalogram (EEG) registers brain activity through small electrodes that are temporarily stuck to the head. The Computerized Tomography scan (CT scan) allows specialists to take pictures of brain tissue.

While both these tests can detect abnormalities, they are not always conclusive one way or the other. Should your daughter be diagnosed with a seizure disorder, there are many types of medications that help prevent seizures without undue side effects and will allow her to pursue a healthy, normal and productive life.

Epilepsy and Seizures: Their Differences

What’s the difference between having a seizure and having epilepsy?

A seizure can happen to anyone. It can be the result of a high fever (as often seen in young children), head trauma (after an accident), or as a result of changes of certain levels of chemicals in a person’s body. After the initial problem is corrected, the seizure usually does not recur. If a person has one seizure, their diagnosis is not epilepsy. Individuals who have recurrent seizures over a prolonged period of time (with no identifiable short term cause), would be diagnosed as having epilepsy.
Stress–Induced Seizures

I was told by my doctor that my seizures were stress–induced, she told me that I no longer needed to take my medication. Why is that?

Non–epileptic seizures can be the result of may different factors. It’s not uncommon to see this type of seizure in individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, or who are under various types of stress. Many people with non–epileptic seizures have experienced some form of abuse (chemical, physical or sexual) at some point in their life. If the cause of the seizure is not a disturbance of the brain’s activity, then medicines to correct that problem will not help. To determine whether the seizures are epileptic or non–epileptic, a person must undergo EEG (Electroencephalogram) monitoring. If the diagnosis of non–epilepsy seizures is made, the person can successfully be treated by undergoing counseling. The diagnosis is important, because medicines to treat epilepsy (as well as many other medicines) have side effects. So if they’re not indicated, it’s important to not take them.
Types of Seizures

I’ve seen a person have a seizure, but what is it, and what causes it?

Seizures can be divided into two different types: Epileptic seizures and Non–epileptic seizures.

When an epileptic seizure occurs, there has been a disturbance of the normal brain activity. Depending upon which area of the brain has been disturbed, you will see different types of activity. Some patients simply lose awareness for a few seconds, others may have uncontrollable movements of their arms or legs or both, and still others may have what most of us think of as a convulsion, where they may lose consciousness, fall to the ground, shake all over, and have excessive saliva production along with loss of bowel or bladder control. A non–epileptic seizure may result in similar activity, but the cause is different. Psychological problems, social maladaptation, as well as changes in body fluids or electrolytes may result in this type of seizure.