Epilepsy and Movement Disorders

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Essential Tremor

Because of the way they affect the child, breath-holding spells may be confused with atonic, tonic, or tonic-clonic seizures. See Types of Seizures. Breath-holding spells usually begin between 6 and 18 months of age and stop before the child is 6 years old. The outlook for a child with breath-holding spells is excellent, and in most cases no treatment is needed.

Parents may try to distract the child during the intense crying, as this can prevent the breath-holding spell. Parents of children who are prone to prolonged vigorous crying tantrums should try to ignore the behavior, withholding the attention and concern that reinforces it. Parents should not pick the child up during an event, as this may exacerbate the spell. However, if the child is in a chair, help them to lie down.

Epilepsy and Movement Disorders

In some cases, a psychologist may help in modifying the child's behavior. The child suddenly becomes pale pallid and then faints. Often family members have had similar spells, sometimes called "pallid breath-holding spells," in early childhood. In contrast to cyanotic or blue breath-holding spells, the episodes are not consistently preceded by intense crying. If the spells are prolonged, the entire body may become rigid and jerk as the lack of oxygen to the brain triggers a seizure.

These spells may result from sensitivity of the vagus nerve, which controls the heart rate. The prognosis is excellent, and treatment is rarely needed, although for some patients doctors may prescribe small doses of atropine. Lightheadedness, dizziness, or impaired vision often precede the loss of consciousness, but fainting normally is not followed by confusion or tiredness for more than a minute. Tics are involuntary, repetitive, intermittent, brief movements. Although tics are purposeless, they may resemble purposeful movements. The most common tics in children are eye blinks, facial grimaces, shoulder shrugs, and head movements.

Tourette's syndrome is characterized by chronic motor and vocal tics. The vocal tics range from grunts and throat-clearing sounds to involuntary cursing and other embarrassing noises. Tics are not seizures, and most are self-limiting. Sleep jerks benign nocturnal myoclonus are brief, involuntary muscular contractions that occur as a person falls asleep. In some cases, they may awaken someone who is drifting off to sleep.

Center for Motor Neuron Biology and Disease

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Pearls & Oy-sters: Frontal lobe epilepsy presenting as complex stereotyped movements

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Your Privacy This site uses cookies to assist with navigation, analyse your use of our services, and provide content from third parties. Ok More Information. For more information please review our cookie policy. This activity will improve physician's knowledge base of best practices, potential complications and indications of epilepsy surgery and surgery for Parkinson's disease, as well as minimally invasive procedures, as to improve the clinical outcomes and quality of life of both patients and families.

Kuzniecky, MD. Pacia, MD.


Epilepsy and paroxysmal movement disorders in families: evidence for shared mechanisms.

Lado MD, PhD. Mehta, MD, PhD. Kuzniecky, MD, Fred A. Lado MD, Ashesh D. Weintraub, MD.

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