What Is Epilepsy? People with epilepsy have repeated seizures. A seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Although watching someone have a seizure can be scary, most seizures only last a few seconds to a few minutes. Many children with epilepsy will outgrow seizures. What Are the Different Kinds of Epilepsy? There are different kinds of epilepsy, including: benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood childhood absence epilepsy infantile spasms intractable epilepsy juvenile myoclonic epilepsy Landau-Kleffner syndrome Lennox-Gastaut syndrome temporal lobe epilepsy The kind of epilepsy that somone has depends on the seizure type. A seizure can be: a primary generalized seizure, which involves both sides of the brain at once a focal seizure, which only involves one side, but can spread to the other side (a secondary generalized seizure) Often, kids with epilepsy have both generalized seizures and focal seizures. What Causes Epilepsy? Epilepsy can be caused by infections, genetic mutations, brain injury or a tumor, abnormal blood vessels, or bleeding in the brain. Kids with Down syndrome, autism, and some metabolic disorders also may have epilepsy. Some types of epilepsy run in families. More than half of epilepsy cases are idiopathic, meaning there's no clear cause, but this is changing as more genetic mutations are found. How Is Epilepsy Diagnosed? Epilepsy in children is diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist (a doctor who specializes in brain, spine, and nervous system problems). Testing may include: blood tests and urine tests (to look for infections or illnesses) EEG, or electroencephalography (to see brain waves/electrical activity in the brain) VEEG, or video electroencephalography (EEG with video recording) CAT scan, MRI, and PET/MRI scans to look inside the brain How Is Epilepsy Treated? Epilepsy is usually treated with medicines. If medicines don't control the seizures, sometimes a special diet, such as a ketogenic diet, is tried. A ketogenic (or keto) diet is a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet and can sometimes reduce seizures. For hard to control seizures, doctors may recommend vagal nerve stimulation (VNS), which is a device that stimulates the vagal nerve, or surgery. How Can I Help My Child? Most kids with epilepsy can lead a normal life. To help your child live better with epilepsy, be sure he or she: takes medicine(s) as prescribed avoids triggers (such as excessive stress, lack of sleep, antihistamine drugs) gets help for any learning or behavior problems sees the neurologist as recommended It's important to keep your child safe during a seizure. So make sure that other adults and caregivers (family members, babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc.) know what to do. Back to Articles Related Articles Childhood Absence Epilepsy (CAE) Kids with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) have seizures where they "blank out" for a few seconds. Most kids will outgrow CAE. Read More Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Kids with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) have seizures that start in one of the temporal lobes of the brain. Seizures usually get better with medicine. Read More Intractable Epilepsy Intractable epilepsy is when a child's seizures can't be controlled by medicines. Doctors may recommend surgery or other treatments for intractable seizures. Read More Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy Kids with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) have one or more of several different kinds of seizures, which begin around the age of puberty. Read More Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Kids with benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood (BREC) have seizures that involve twitching, numbness, or tingling of the face or tongue. Read More Infantile Spasms Infantile spasms (IS) is a seizure disorder in babies. The spasms usually go away by age 4, but many babies with IS will have other kinds of epilepsy later. Read More Epilepsy Surgery Epilepsy surgery is an operation done on the brain to reduce or stop seizures. Read More Ketogenic Diet A ketogenic diet is a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that can reduce, and sometimes stop, seizures. Read More Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) is a seizure disorder. Children with LGS have several different kinds of seizures. Read More Epilepsy Factsheet (for Schools) What teachers should know about epilepsy, and what they can do to help students with the condition succeed in school. Read More PET/MRI Scan A PET/MRI scan is an imaging test that combines PET and MRI in one session. It creates very detailed pictures of the inside of the body. Read More First Aid: Seizures Although seizures can be frightening, usually they last only a few minutes, stop on their own, and are almost never life-threatening. Read More Febrile Seizures Febrile seizures are full-body convulsions caused by high fevers that affect young kids. Although they can be frightening, they usually stop on their own and don't cause any other health problems. Read More Epilepsy It comes from a Greek word meaning "to hold or seize," and seizures are what happen to people with epilepsy. Learn more about epilepsy in this article written just for kids. Read More Brain and Nervous System The brain controls everything we do, and is often likened to the central computer within a vast, complicated communication network, working at lightning speed. Read More Epilepsy Seizures are a common symptom of epilepsy, a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Learn all about epilepsy, including what to do if you see someone having a seizure. Read More Seizures Seizures are caused by a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. Find out what you need to know about seizures and what to do if your child has one. Read More Word! Seizure You might hear a seizure called a convulsion, fit, or spell. Read More Brain and Nervous System If the brain is a central computer that controls all the functions of the body, then the nervous system is like a network that relays messages back and forth to different parts of the body. Find out how they work in this Body Basics article. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.