What are Infantile Spasms?
Infantile spasms are a distinct type of epilepsy or seizure. These spasms look like sudden jerking movements of the body. The child will suddenly bend the head and body forward and throw the arms out to the front or side. Infantile spasms last for only a couple of seconds, but can occur in groups. Infantile spasms are seen most often just before or after sleep.
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What causes infantile spasms to occur?
Infantile spasms occur in infants, often starting to be seen between the ages of 4 to 6 months and they may occur for various reasons. Some are part of medical conditions in which one of the manifestations is infantile spasms. Others are not related to any other medical condition, therefore their cause is not entirely clear.
An EEG, or brain wave record, can help the doctor diagnose infantile spasms. A special brain pattern called hypsarrhythmia (HIP-sah-rith-me-ah) is usually found. Children who have other problems of the nervous system are more likely to have infantile spasms. These children are less likely to have a good long-term outcome after treatment.
What is a seizure?
The brain uses small amounts of electricity to tell other parts of the brain and the body what to do. Sometimes, for reasons we do not fully understand, there is a sudden large burst of electricity in the brain. This interrupts the brain’s normal activities, causing a change in behavior and level of alertness. This event is a seizure. The child does not feel any pain or discomfort.
How are infantile spasms treated?
Treatment for infantile spasms has been perfected over the years. Initially, treatment with a special hormone medicine called ACTH has given the best results, but it entails some adverse effects and requires frequent monitoring. A steroid medicine called prednisone may also be used, and other anti-seizure medications have been found to help control the infantile spasms.
You should discuss with your doctor the best treatment options that can be used for your child, based on his/her diagnosis.