Infantile spasms typically begin between 4 and 8 months of age. This is a very serious form of epilepsy and can have long-term consequences. Early treatment is critical.
Infantile spasms often occur when a child is falling asleep or waking up. The child’s body may suddenly jerk, flex or extend. Sometimes, the arms are flung out, the knees are pulled up and the body bends forward. Less often, the head can be thrown back while the body and legs stiffen to a straight position. Each spasm lasts a few seconds, but they may occur close together in a cluster. They should not be confused with colic cramps, which don’t occur in a series. Infantile spasms take many forms and can be subtle.
Most children with infantile spasms have had a prior brain disorder or injury, but others have no existing condition and have developed normally prior to the onset of infantile spasms. Babies with infantile spasms often stop developing and may lose skills they have already mastered, like sitting, rolling over or babbling.
ACTH therapy is the mainstay treatment for infantile spasms. Infants with infantile spasms and the diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis may sometimes be tried first on Vigabatrin (Sabril).
In many cases, the earlier the seizures are recognized and treated, the better the outcome will be for the child. Long-term effects of infantile spasms can include epilepsy, developmental delay, cognitive impairments and autism.