Chickenpox doesn’t cause epilepsy, but seizures can occur during chickenpox. Most seizures that happen when you have chickenpox are febrile, caused by a high fever.
Most of the time, chickenpox is an itchy rash, but in rare instances, it can cause complications in children and adults,
Here’s what you need to know about seizures with chickenpox, what causes them, and whether or not they’ll develop into epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures or convulsions. A seizure happens when the electrical signals in the brain surge erratically. Seizures generally last from seconds to a
According to the
The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a highly
With chickenpox, a person may develop as many as
There are two vaccines available for chickenpox:
- Varivax – contains only the chickenpox vaccine
- ProQuad – contains the chicken pox vaccine and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMRV)
Both are administered in a
Chickenpox vaccines lower the chance of severe infection and have decreased cases in the United States by around
People can have seizures related to chickenpox; however, seizures aren’t a main symptom of the virus.
There are two major reasons for seizures that are associated with chickenpox. They can occur during the acute phase of the infection, usually just once or twice, and rarely, chickenpox leads to certain complications that lead to epilepsy.
Very rarely, some people may develop a brain infection that can lead to seizures and possibly epilepsy.
Chickenpox-related infections that may cause epilepsy include:
- Encephalitis: This infection causes an inflammation of the brain. It occurs in approximately one out of every
33,000 to 50,000cases of VZV. Chickenpox makes up 23% of the viruses that cause encephalitis and result in chronic epilepsy.
- Meningitis: The infection causes an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. It’s another
rarecomplication of chickenpox that may lead to neurological symptoms such as seizures.
Febrile seizures may occur during chickenpox. They affect between
Make an appointment with a doctor or healthcare professional if you or your child are experiencing seizures. A doctor will give you a physical exam and go over your medical history and family medical history to help find the root cause.
If you’ve had
- Electroencephalography (EEG): EEGs measure the electrical activity (brain wave patterns) in the brain. Electrodes are placed on the head and record electrical signals from the brain.
- Imaging tests: MRI, CT scan, positron emission tomography scan, and other imaging tests allow doctors to visualize the brain and any underlying issues that might be contributing to seizures such as infection. Imaging tests are noninvasive and involve lying in a machine to obtain the images.
Seizures related to chickenpox don’t always evolve into epilepsy.
If seizures continue after your illness, treatment options include:
- antiseizure medications
- brain surgery to remove the affected part of the brain
- placement of an electrical device in the chest for vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation
Some people may need treatment their whole lives. Others can avoid episodes by avoiding triggers. And some people may find that their epilepsy goes away with time.
Febrile seizures are
The exception is if a child has multiple febrile seizures, which last longer than
Children who have febrile seizures that last longer than
Recurrent seizures caused by viral complications, such as encephalitis or meningitis, make up between 1 to 5% of all cases of epilepsy. The outlook will depend on the type of seizures and other health issues a person has. Again, some seizures go away with time. Others require treatment with medication, surgery, or other procedures.
Who’s at risk of developing epilepsy from chickenpox?
People at risk of complications from chickenpox include babies, teens, adults, pregnant people, and people with compromised immune systems. In addition to encephalitis and febrile seizures, this group is at
Can adults receive the chickenpox vaccine?
Yes. While the ProQuad (MMRV) vaccine is only approved for children up to age
What should I do if I observe a seizure in my child?
Move your child into a recovery position (rolled on their side facing you) and don’t place anything in your child’s mouth. Pay attention to how long the seizure lasts. Call 911 or local emergency services if this is your child’s first seizure, if the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, if you believe it’s caused by an infection, or whenever you have other concerns.
Seizures are a possible complication of the chickenpox virus. They’re not a feature of the illness itself. Instead, seizures may be caused by fever or other issues such as the virus spreading to cause a brain infection.
Let a doctor know immediately if you or your child experience seizures during your illness.