Hemiplegia in children with epilepsy

17th December 2018

Hemiplegia, much like epilepsy, is a neurological condition that’s caused by damage to the brain. A child can be born with this damage, or it can be developed after a stroke, accident or perhaps a tumour, which is known as ‘acquired hemiplegia’. It is caused by damage to one hemisphere of the brain and 1 in 1,000 children are born with hemiplegia to some degree.

What are the effects of hemiplegia?

The most defining characteristic of hemiplegia is a varying degree of weakness and lack of control in one side of the body. For some, this might be a mild tick or weakness in the legs/arms, however, for others, it could be almost complete paralysis. It’s also common that some learning difficulties will accompany hemiplegia. Whilst symptoms are considered to be primarily physical, there is also the emotional impact of living with the condition that might affect a child.

The relationship between hemiplegia and epilepsy

As both hemiplegia and epilepsy are neurological conditions, it’s possible that the damage that causes hemiplegia will also be the cause of epilepsy in the same child. In fact, it is estimated that 20% of those who have hemiplegia will also have epilepsy. For children that are born with hemiplegia, it’s most likely that epilepsy will develop before the age of 5, the incidence of epilepsy developing at all will drop as the child reaches age 10.

Due to the nature of the damage, it’s most likely that someone with hemiplegia and epilepsy will experience focal seizures, although they could also be generalised. ‘Startle’ seizures are also fairly common, where a seizure is triggered by unexpected situations, such as loud noises tripping whilst walking.

Treatment and prognosis

Unfortunately, hemiplegia is a permanent condition with minimal treatments available. It’s a condition that most people learn to live with through the use of specialised aids and care. For a child with hemiplegia and epilepsy, epilepsy will likely be treated by the use of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Of course, the degree of severity and effectiveness of the treatment will vary from child to child. Both hemiplegia and epilepsy are variable conditions that can affect each individual differently.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on hemiplegia and epilepsy or to enquire about our care services, call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.