Epilepsy Symptoms in Babies

Seizures and other symptoms of epilepsy in babies may occur due to birth defects, illness, fevers, delivery problems and poisoning or toxins in the bloodstream. The University of Maryland Medical Center, UMMC, also lists neurological–brain and nervous system–disorders such as hippocampal sclerosis–hardening of tissue in the brain–and hydrocephalus–fluid accumulation in the brain–to be related to epilepsy in infants. The cause of epilepsy in some infants is not known and symptoms also vary and in some cases are subtle or difficult to differentiate from normal infant behavior such as crying.

Neonatal Onset Symptoms

According to the EpilepsyFoundation.org, seizures occur more often in new born babies under the age of two months, than at any other age in life. This type of epilepsy is called neonatal onset and symptoms can be very subtle. Behaviors and symptoms of neonatal onset epilepsy include repetitive sucking, repeated extending of the tongue, long pauses in breathing, blinking or fluttering of the eyelids, rapid eye movements, fixing the gaze to one side, quick muscle jerking, pedaling or stepping movements of the legs and feet and paddling or rowing movements of the arms and hands.

Infantile Onset Symptoms

This type of epilepsy typically begins when the baby is between four to six months, but can also begin at the age of one to two years according to the EpilepsyFoundation.org. The characteristic symptoms of infantile onset epilepsy include rapid, but generally violent, muscles contractions or spasms of the arms, legs and other areas of the body. These spasms may last only one to two seconds and occur in clusters that commonly take place in the early morning and after the baby wakes from a nap. Other symptoms include repetitive forward head nodding or bobbing, contraction of the legs at the knees when lying down, stiffening or extending of the neck, trunk, legs and arms and crying.

Generalized Tonic-Clonic Symptoms

Seizures due to generalized tonic-clonic epilepsy can occur in babies over the age of two months but are very rare. Symptoms include dramatic–grand-mal–seizures in which the baby contracts the arm muscles, turns the head to the side, falls and contracts the chest muscles so that breathing may stop temporarily. The limbs also jerk violently and the infant’s lips can turn blue from the lack of oxygen. The baby may also lose consciousness and the dramatic seizure can last for two to three minutes and can prove very frightening for parents to see.

Febrile Seizure Symptoms

Febrile seizures due to fevers and illness remain the most commons seizures in infants and young children. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, febrile seizures are dramatic–grand-mal–or tonic–stiffening of the body–and usually last for less than five minutes. Other symptoms include fixed staring, muscle rigidity, loss of muscle tone or limpness and a rhythmic jerking motion of both sides of the body.

About this Author

Noreen Kassem is a physician in training and a medical writer with 10 years of experience in writing and editing. Noreen\’s articles have been featured in Women\’s Health, Nutrition News, Check Up and Alive Magazine. She also writes about her other interests: travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.