The pathways of chemical metabolism in the newborn are very unstable and vast changes in the serum concentrations of various substances can occur. A blood glucose concentration sufficiently low (hypoglycaemia) to cause seizures, for example, cannot be induced in older children or adults by starvation, or indeed by any means other than the injection of insulin. However, severe hypoglycaemia resulting in seizures may be seen in the newborn, particularly in premature infants, or in babies born to diabetic mothers.
Seizures due to a low serum calcium are also fairly frequent in the newborn period. One cause is early feeding with cow’s milk, which is very rich in phosphates, and which results in increased renal excretion of calcium and subsequent low levels of calcium in the blood.
In later stages of life, other acquired metabolic disorders may cause seizures. Chronic renal failure used to be one of the more common causes, but dialysis and successful transplantation of kidneys has reduced the frequency of seizures due to this cause.
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