West syndrome (also called infantile spasms) should go away by the time your child is 4 years old. But most people who had it will get another kind of epilepsy or seizure condition in childhood or as an adult. About 1 in 5 will have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures.
West syndrome can affect your child’s development and ability to think. How severe their problems are depends on what caused the condition and how they were developing before they got it:
- If they were on track before, they may keep their mental ability or only have a mild disability.
- If their West syndrome came from a brain disorder or an injury, they're likely to have more serious problems.
About 7 in 10 babies with West syndrome have severe mental disabilities. They might get autism, especially if the syndrome came from tuberous sclerosis complex, a condition that causes noncancerous tumors in the body and brain. Or they could be hyperactive, which means it’ll be hard for them to sit still or concentrate.
It’s rare, but some children who had West syndrome as babies will die before adulthood. It usually happens before the age of 10.
Your baby is more likely to develop normally if:
- They were at least 4 months old before they got West syndrome.
- Their seizures aren’t unusual for West syndrome.
- They don’t have partial seizures.
- Their readings from an EEG -- which measures electrical activity in the brain -- are normal. (They don’t have what doctors call "asymmetry.")
- They get treated soon after their diagnosis.
- Treatment gets their seizures under control quickly.
What to Expect From Treatment
The goal is to control seizures or lower the number of them. It can also help their development. The earlier West syndrome is treated, the better your child’s chances will be to develop normally or have only a mild disability.
In the Long Term
The future depends on what caused your baby’s West syndrome. If it's from an injury, infection, or a condition like tuberous sclerosis complex, they may not fare as well.
If there wasn’t another cause and their development was on track before it, their chances of a normal life are a little bit better than 50-50. The odds are even higher if they get treatment within a month of getting West syndrome. About 1 in 4 babies who have it will develop normally and be able to have a job when they grow up.
How to Get Support
Parents of children with West syndrome can find -- or give -- help via the Infantile Spasms Project, an online forum run by the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.