Epilepsy is a condition in which a person has seizures, which are bursts of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain.
The severity of epilepsy occurs on a spectrum, with some patients having just a few seizures over their lifetime, while others may experience multiple seizures daily. There are different types of seizures, which may affect anything from a small area of the brain to the whole brain at once.
In addition to the differences in symptoms, there are differences in what people with epilepsy experience over time. Some will find that their seizures subside entirely after a few years, while others may live with symptoms for most of their childhood and adulthood.
We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Epilepsy, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.
The diagnosis of epilepsy is made when the child has signs of multiple seizures, separated by at least 24 hours, and with no apparent cause, such as a fever. More than 45,000 children in the U.S.¹ receive a diagnosis of epilepsy every year.
Here are some key facts about epilepsy.
Children can become seizure-controlled very quickly once they are on the right medication
Children with epilepsy have about a 70% chance of becoming seizure-free
Most patients have normal cognitive development, and the long-term outlook is good
Children are most likely to experience a good outcome if they have the following:
No known cause of epilepsy (such as a genetic condition)
No family history of epilepsy
Normal development, neurological exam, and EEG
If your child meets these criteria, they have the best possible chance to improve their epilepsy over time. Of course, as with any medical condition, it’s not always possible to predict what will happen to a particular individual.
Some children who meet these criteria might continue to have epilepsy for the rest of their lives, for example, while others who don’t meet these criteria might stop experiencing seizures within a few years.
Still, those with all the factors on this list are the most likely to stop having seizures over time.
Once your child has been seizure-free for about two years, medication can be stopped. Some children will no longer have seizures after tapering off their meds, while others will experience a return of seizures and will need to go back on their medications.
Even if this happens, it may be possible to try again to stop the medications after a few more years. Studies² show that roughly half of all children who stop having seizures with medication are eventually able to come off of that medication.
An underlying disorder can sometimes be treated to help control seizures. Doctors will always try to identify and treat these issues before proceeding with epilepsy treatment.
A careful medical evaluation will reveal what type of seizures your child is having. This will allow doctors to create the right treatment plan. For most children, the first line of treatment is medications.
Doctors may prescribe the ketogenic diet for those who don’t respond to medication. It is composed of 90% fats and has been linked³ strongly to reductions in seizure severity and frequency.
It is not fully understood why this diet change helps, but it’s very effective in some patients. However, the diet is challenging to maintain. There are also certain patients for whom it’s unsafe, such as those with certain genetic conditions.
It’s crucial for a patient on the ketogenic diet to be monitored by medical professionals. The specifics of each patient’s diet are mathematically calculated to create a diet that’s as effective as possible while still providing adequate nutrients.
Another possible treatment option for some children is surgery. This is only an option for those with certain types of seizures who have already tried other treatments (like medications) and are still having seizures. If the episodes always start in the same part of the brain, removing brain tissue from that region may prevent seizures.
Epilepsy surgery can have significant benefits in carefully selected patients. However, risks are also involved, which must be weighed against the benefits to decide whether surgery is worth trying on a particular patient.
The outlook for children with epilepsy is generally good. Approximately two-thirds of children with epilepsy will eventually stop having seizures, either with or without medications.
This doesn’t always happen right away. Some children become seizure-free within a few years of their initial diagnosis. Others continue to have seizures for a while, but these eventually stop happening.
If your child has seizures, there is a chance that they’ll stop having them as they grow older. Families should stay hopeful as they support their child who has epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a common condition among children, which can be frightening for parents when they discover their child has been diagnosed with this neurological condition. It’s important not to worry because epilepsy is a manageable condition that does not have to impact you or your child’s life drastically.
With the proper treatment, many children experience a reduction in symptoms over time, and some even grow out of epilepsy entirely.
Not necessarily. Children can have seizures for other reasons, like a high fever or low blood sugar. It’s essential to take your child straight to the doctor if they have a seizure. Keep calm; children can have occasional seizures, which does not necessarily mean epilepsy.
Epilepsy is among the most common neurological disorders among children.
The most recent estimates suggest that 0.6% of children⁴ under age 18 are experiencing active epilepsy. In a school with 1,000 students, about six may have epilepsy.
Currently, no medication or other therapy is available to prevent epilepsy. However, you can decrease the risk by avoiding certain risk factors.
For example, head injuries can cause brain injury that leads to epilepsy, so being vigilant about the consistent and proper use of helmets, car seats, and seatbelts is crucial.
Another possible cause of epilepsy is meningitis, an infection of the nervous system. Some cases of meningitis can be prevented with vaccination, and consistent hygiene (such as routine handwashing) also helps.
In addition, many complications during pregnancy can lead to epilepsy in your child. Ensure that you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, and follow your doctor’s instructions for taking care of yourself during pregnancy.
The epilepsies and seizures: Hope through research | NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke
Epilepsy fast facts | Centers for Disease and Control
Epilepsy in children (2006)
Epilepsy surgery in children (2017)
Seizure | NIH: National Library of Medicine
Bacterial meningitis | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention