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WHEN EPILEPSY BECOMES A HANDICAP: SOME RARE DISABLING CONDITIONS LENNOX GASTAUT SYNDROME

A few of the children who are most severely disabled with epilepsy suffer from a rare condition, Lennox Gastaut syndrome. These children have very severe learning disabilities, it is impossible to control their seizures with drugs, and their condition gradually deteriorates. A drug called felbamate can give some seizure control, but the drug itself has some dangerous side-effects and is only used in special circumstances.
LANDAU KLEFFNE
Landau Kleffne is a very rare syndrome in which a child develops seizures, until, at the age of five, their speech starts to regress and they may stop speaking. Although it is extremely rare and affects only a very few children, Landau Kleffne is worth mentioning simply because if it is diagnosed early the condition is reversible and an operation can be done to stop the damage to speech. If the child is not referred to a specialist in time, their speech may be permanently damaged.
RASMUSSEN’S SYNDROME
In rare cases, a child may develop severe epilepsy which seems to come from one side of the brain. They may then start to lose some mental skills and, more important, their movement and coordination of the side of the body opposite to the affected side of the brain, may start to deteriorate slowly. The child therefore becomes increasingly handicapped. At this stage, an MRI scan may show that half the brain has started to atrophy. In severe cases, the treatment is hemispherectomy. This degeneration of one half of the brain is known as Rasmussens encephalitis (or Rasmussen’s syndrome), and it is thought to be caused by a virus which attacks one half of the brain, but not the other.
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