Childhood Epilepsy: Your Questions Answered

Having your child diagnosed with pediatric epilepsy can be a frightening time for any parent. But the more you know about childhood epilepsy, the better prepared you will be to make sure your child gets the proper care.

mother hugging her active son
mother hugging her active son

Here are some questions to ask your doctor that may help you better understand epilepsy in children.

My child was diagnosed with epilepsy. What does this mean?

Childhood epilepsy is a brain disorder leading to repeated seizures over time. Seizures, also known as convulsions, are episodes in which brain activity is disturbed, causing changes in awareness, movement or behavior. Epilepsy in children is sometimes caused by certain medical conditions such as congenital brain defects or metabolic disorder present at birth, or resulting from a brain tumor or brain injury.

What are some childhood epilepsy symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of epilepsy in children vary depending on the brain area involved and the underlying  cause. For example, some children with epilepsy have simple staring spells or loss of alertness, while others experience violent shaking.

Infant seizures can include sudden jerking of the head forward when sitting down. Other symptoms of epilepsy in babies can include staring into space, breathing problems or grabbing behaviors.

Symptoms of epilepsy in toddlers and older children also include:

  • Suddenly falling for no reason
  • Rolling of the eyes and blinking repeatedly
  • Sudden nodding of the head
  • Sudden stiffening of the arms or legs

Are there treatments for epilepsy in infants and children?

In most cases, childhood seizures can be well controlled by anticonvulsant drug therapy. Depending on the specific type of childhood epilepsy, some patients require several different anti-epileptic medications; surgery is an important treatment option for children who do not respond to medication, while dietary changes yield positive results in certain types of severe epilepsy. 

Will epilepsy affect other aspects of my child’s life?

Many types of childhood epilepsy improve or go into remission by the late teens or early twenties, but epilepsy is life-long in some individuals. While there is a very low risk of sudden death with epilepsy, serious injuries can occur during activities like driving. Your doctor can help you determine the best childhood epilepsy treatment.