A neurological disorder known as “alternating hemiplegia of children” or AHC disease is characterised by recurrent episodes of momentary paralysis, frequently affecting one side of the body (hemiplegia). In certain cases, the paralysis affects both sides of the body simultaneously or alternately on one side of the body. These bouts normally start before the age of 18 months and persist for a few minutes to many days. It is a very rare condition that affects 1 in a million children.

What Leads to Hemiplegic Episodes?

Children’s hemiplegic attacks have various underlying causes. Attacks have been shown to be triggered by highly stressful activities, or upper respiratory issues. Brightness, weather, temperature fluctuations, and water exposure have an impact on children. Many attacks seem to have no purpose or reason.

Despite the fact that the phrase “of childhood” appears in the name AHC, there is no proof that a child will automatically become cured as they become older. As they grow older, many kids show an increased capacity to manage episodes or even avoid triggers, although this isn’t always the case.

Symptoms of AHC

AHC in children has been associated with a variety of symptoms. These include:

  • Seizures
  • developmental delays
  • mental disabilities
  • tonic attacks (loss of muscle tone)
  • dystonic postures (stiffening of the limbs)
  • Nystagmus
  • oculomotor abnormalities (eye problems).

Not all kids experience all of these related symptoms, and there is currently no proof that these symptoms are connected to or driven  by AHC.

What long-term Impacts does AHC have?

Given its recent diagnosis, AHC would still be regarded as a “new” condition at this point. There is no evidence that the illness causes death or reduces life expectancy in any manner, but there isn’t enough supporting information. There is growing evidence that suggests AHC may have a progressive course and result in long-term neurological and mental impairments.

Similarities with Autism and Cerebral Palsy

AHC patients have developmental delays, such as those in sitting, standing, walking, and the acquisition of social skills. Additionally, they have trouble speaking and understanding. Some children display symptoms like repeatedly asking the same question or making the same statement instead of responding. They frequently act rashly and are very busy. But unlike children with autism, they frequently interact with and even manipulate their carers, and given the correct circumstances, they are able to obey directions.

Children with AHC experience issues with mobility similar to CP, such as uncontrollable limb and body movements. Typically, people walk with their hands parallel to their chest in a dance-like motion. Some of them have uncontrollable walking movements or are unable to walk at all. When stimulated, they also show heightened reflexes. They struggle with chewing and swallowing food because of their reduced muscular tone and impaired motor coordination.

Management of AHC

As of right now, AHC is not specifically treated. Antiepileptic medications, however, are employed to lessen the incidence of movement disorder episodes. But most of the time, these medications are ineffective. Sleep is a key component of episode recovery. Therefore, the Neurologist may prescribe drugs to make you fall asleep, like Valium or Midazolam, or chloral hydrate.

In order to promote development and enhance quality of life, management of AHC involves maintaining the child’s nutritional level in a healthy state. Depending on the child’s development, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and special education for learning difficulties may be provided.

Clinical trials and research will determine the future mostly. Numerous nations currently take an active role in AHC research. Recently, stem cell therapy has gained traction for managing various diseases like autism, cerebral palsy, or forms of ALS like anterior horns cell disease, etc. Therefore, it can be a hope for managing AHC pertaining to its regenerative properties.

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