Causes of Behavior Issues in Sturge-Weber Syndrome

SEPTEMBER 24, 2015

Question: My child has behavioral and mood issues. How do I know if this is because of her/his seizure medication or Sturge-Weber syndrome?

Answer: This is a great question to discuss with your neurologist. Here are some thoughts to consider:

Uncontrolled seizures can result in behavioral or mood issues. So, are the seizures controlled? Sleep problems can also cause these issues, so getting an overnight sleep study with an EEG is a good way to make sure.

If seizures and sleep are not the problem, then consider the medications. Are the mood and behavior problems worsened with dose increases and an hour or two after going up on the dose? If so, then that could be the problem. Some medications are more likely to cause mood and behavior issues than others but in any given patient, anything (almost) is possible. That is because we are all genetically different and our metabolism can react to seizure medications differently.

Attention problems (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD/ADD for short) are common with Sturge-Weber syndrome and can look like behavior issues. Good neuropsychological testing can sort this out and is important to have this done to be sure that the child receives optimal therapy.

Psychiatric issues such as depression and anxiety can also occur and may present in unusual ways in children. Like other medical problems, it is important that these are properly diagnosed and treated.

In the end, it is often difficult to know for sure if these symptoms are directly due to the Sturge-Weber syndrome per se, as the SWS, epilepsy and medications occur together. However, with good care and thoughtful testing, these possibilities can be sorted out and properly treated.

Check back weekly for new posts and up-to-date information from Sturge-Weber syndrome expert Dr. Anne Comi.

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