Hypothalamic hamartoma is a type of rare, benign (noncancerous) tumor that occurs at a rate of approximately 1 in every 200,000 people worldwide. Because they are so rare, hypothalamic hamartomas can be extremely difficult to diagnose, let alone treat effectively.
Hypothalamic hamartomas affect individuals from infancy through adulthood and commonly cause seizures, precocious (early) puberty, hormonal imbalances, and cognitive and behavioral problems.
Hypothalamic hamartomas are usually diagnosed during evaluation of patients for epilepsy or precocious puberty.
Seizures caused by a hypothalamic hamartoma usually begin in infancy, most often as brief and frequent gelastic (or laughing) seizures. You may not be able to tell the difference between a gelastic seizure and normal laughter.
The difficulty in identifying gelastic seizures usually delays the diagnosis of epilepsy and of the hypothalamic hamartoma. Even medical professionals and experienced neurologists can have difficulty recognizing gelastic seizures because they are rare and can affect children that may generally develop normally.