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Epilepsy is a brain condition that makes a child susceptible to 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 affects about 1 percent of children and is the third most common brain disorder. It is sometimes caused by an underlying disease, injury or brain development disorder, but it often seems to appear out of nowhere. A child may have epilepsy if he or she has had two or more unprovoked seizures, meaning there is no detectable immediate cause of the seizures such as a high fever.
Epilepsy can involve many different types of seizures: Some are easy to recognize, as when your child’s body shakes, and he becomes temporarily less aware. Other seizures don’t have any obvious outward signs at all.
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.
Most children with epilepsy can achieve good seizure control with treatment, and some can live seizure-free. Treatments for epilepsy have expanded greatly in recent years to include many new medications, specialized diets and a wide range of surgical strategies. A new technique, noninvasive brain stimulation, is also being studied. Finding a treatment approach that works for your child can involve some trial and error.
Click the tabs at left to learn more about epilepsy. For more information about seizures, visit the seizures page.
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