Epilepsy and physical health

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Read about physical health difficulties that may arise for an epileptic child, and how to help. Physical health concerns can be discussed with a treatment team.

Key points

  • Some children with epilepsy will have no physical symptoms other than seizures, while others may experience fatigue, low energy and other symptoms.
  • Medications such as valproate may cause fatigue, lack of energy and poor appetite.
  • Contact the treatment team if you are concerned about the physical effects of epilepsy or anti-epileptic drugs on your child.

Some children with epilepsy experience no physical symptoms, other than seizures. However, children whose seizures are not well controlled are more likely to experience fatigue and low energy. Other less common physical complaints include headache, stomach ache or nausea, weight gain or loss, and pain in various parts of the body. These symptoms may arise from the child’s underlying brain abnormality, seizures, medications, or a combination of all three.

An example of a drug side effect causing physical problems is the role valproic acid​ (Epival, Divalproex) plays in depletion of carnitine (an amino acid). This can produce fatigue, lack of energy, and poor appetite. Checking the child’s carnitine level and giving a supplement if the carnitine is low can result in less fatigue, improved energy, and an increase in appetite.

Children, including adolescents, who have increased fatigue often require up to 12 hours of sleep at night. Even with that amount of sleep, they may still require one or more naps during the day. In one study of children with intractable epilepsy, some of the children described how they were so tired during the school day that they were unable to pay attention or remember what they had just been taught. As a result, fatigue played a role in reducing academic participation and academic success.

If you are concerned about the physical effects of epilepsy or anti-epileptic drugs on your child, discuss it with the treatment team.

Last updated: February 4th 2010