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Pediatric Epilepsy Center

What are seizures? Are they common? What do I do if I think my child has seizures?

Seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain: Some parts of the brain get over-excited and fire off too many electrical signals. Epilepsy is a condition in the brain where seizures are more common to occur.

Epilepsy affects about 1 percent of children and is a third most common brain disorder. Seizures or epilepsy may be caused by an underlying disease, injury or brain development. Seizures may also appear out of nowhere. A child may have epilepsy if he or she has had two or more unprovoked seizures.

Epilepsy can involve many different types of seizures: Some seizures are easy to recognize when your child’s body shakes or they become temporarily less aware. Other seizures do not have obvious outward signs.


What are the effects of epilepsy?

Epilepsy can have a profound effect on a child’s life. Some children may fall or get injured during a seizure, and the episode can leave your child exhausted. The abnormal brain activity that happens during a seizure can sometimes cause damage to the brain. So seizures and epilepsy are a special concern in children, because children’s brains are busy growing and changing.

Epilepsy sometimes can cause changes in behavior and personality or lead to other neurological problems, learning difficulties or depression and anxiety. Identifying these sorts of problems and intervening early are important aspects of caring for a child with epilepsy. Some doctors are starting to use the term “epilepsy spectrum disorder” to reflect how complex epilepsy can be.

Is epilepsy curable?

Most children with epilepsy can achieve good seizure control with treatment, and some can live seizure-free with medication or surgery.  We use the latest treatments for epilepsy with many new medications, specialized diets and a wide range of surgical strategies. We work with families to find a treatment approach that works for your child on an individualized plan.

What causes seizures?

A seizure happens when cells in the brain signal too much and disrupting the brain’s normal electrical pattern. Epilepsy and seizures have many possible causes, including:

For many children, however, further testing is needed to identify a cause, if possible.


What are the symptoms of epilepsy?


Seizures can have many different effects and can present with subtle but frightening symptoms that can include:

  • staring episode or multiple spells

  •  jerking movements in the arms and legs

  • stiffening of the body

  • loss of consciousness

  • breathing problems

  • loss of bowel or bladder control

  • not responding to noise or words

  • appearing confused

  • extreme sleepiness and irritability

  • head nodding

  • rapid eye blinking

  • changes in vision and speech

  • vomiting


What should I do if I think my child is having a seizure?


The most important thing to do is to protect your child from injury. General guidelines:

  • Ease your child to the floor

  • Keep your child’s head from falling backward. Place a soft object underneath

  • Keep your child on his or her side, to prevent choking

  • Move objects away from your child

  • Loosen tight clothing

  • Do not try to open your child’s mouth or place anything between her teeth

  • Do not try to stop your child’s movement or try to “shake her out of it

  • Stay with your child until the seizure stops

  • Contact your child’s doctor right away, or call 911 for emergency help

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