Infantile Spasms Symptoms and Diagnosis

Infantile spasm (IS) symptoms aren't easy to recognize. In fact, many parents don't realize their child is having a seizure at first.

People often think of seizures as someone falling and shaking, but that's not the case with IS.

Symptoms of Infantile Spasms (IS)

Children with IS — a rare type of epilepsy — may:

  • Raise their arms over their head or stick their arms straight out to the side.
  • Stiffen their legs or "tuck them into the belly," as if having stomach pain.
  • Suddenly bend at the waist.
  • Drop or bob their heads briefly.
  • Roll their eyes back suddenly with subtle head nodding.
  • Lose their balance while sitting up, with their arms in the air.

IS symptoms only last for a second or two, but also tend to happen in clusters. This means your child may have one seizure after another.

The seizures happen most often when your child first wakes up in the morning or after a nap.

Diagnosing Infantile Spasms

If you think your child may have this type of spasm, getting a diagnosis and treatment is vital.

Your child's neurologist will take a careful history, examine your child, and likely order an EEG test.

Once the doctor confirms a diagnosis of IS, he or she may order more tests to find the cause of the spasms.

Tests may include:

  • Blood work to look for genetic or metabolic conditions.
  • A brain scan, such as a CT or MRI.

To learn more about infantile spasms or make an appointment for your child, contact UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at 412-692-5520.