There are many reasons infants might have seizures. Modern neuroimaging and molecular genetic studies have greatly improved our ability to determine these causes. Why some syndromes appear only in infants of specific ages is less well known. Some causes can be successfully treated and not all children who experience seizures will go on to have epilepsy.
The developing brain is vulnerable to a variety of insults before, during and following birth. Among possible causes of seizures in children are:
- Disorders of brain development (genetic or chromosomal)
- Injury from hemorrhage or infection before birth
- Birth trauma
- Other traumas (for example, shaken baby syndrome)
- Infections present at birth (rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, human immunodeficiency virus-HIV, coxackievirus B, etc.)
- Infections acquired after birth (escherichia coli, streptoccus, sepsis, etc.)
- Inborn errors of metabolism (inability to make enough of some or all of the many types of chemicals that the brain needs to function)
- Vitamin or electrolyte deficiencies (sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, etc.) imbalances
- Drug withdrawal
Seizures are classified as idiopathic when no cause can be identified. Idiopathic seizures occur in about one quarter of cases . The outcome in these cases normally is much better than when there is a known structural abnormality.