Many children outgrow their seizures. A child is more likely to outgrow his seizures if he has a normal EEG, normal MRI, normal development, no other neurological problems, and the seizures are controlled easily with medication.
After a child begins taking medicine and has no seizures for two (2) years, many children are slowly taken off the seizure medication. You should never stop medication on your own. If you stop medication suddenly it may cause your child to have a seizure. Many (60 to 75%) of children who are slowly weaned off medication will remain seizure free.
Flashing lights can trigger seizures in some children. For most children with epilepsy, TV’s, computers and video games are safe. We usually learn if your child is sensitive to flashing lights during an EEG. If this is the case he may be at increased risk for a seizure when he is exposed to flashing lights from a TV, computer or video game, or strobe lights. Hopefully, medication will decrease the risk so that no specific modifications are needed. However, some precautions may be necessary when watching TV or playing video or computer games. Your child should not sit too close to the TV, take a 10 or 15 minute break if playing computer games longer than one (1) hour, avoid these activities when overtired, and lights in the room should stay on. Wearing sunglasses with blue lenses when driving or riding in a car will decrease the risk of seizures triggered by flashing sunlight on bright days.
There are a few factors which may trigger someone to have a seizure when they are otherwise well controlled. These are often called breakthrough seizures. Factors which may trigger seizures are lack of sleep, illness and fever, missed medications, alcohol use, and significant mental or physical stress.
If seizures are well controlled most children can play most sports. Some precautions may be needed. Sports and strenuous activities very rarely trigger seizures in children. There is even some evidence that physical activity may actually help decrease the risk of seizures. We encourage all children to be physically active but to use extra precautions as needed.
Anyone who is responsible for the care or supervision of your child should know that your child has epilepsy and is at risk for seizures. They should know what to do if your child has a seizure. This may include teachers, grandparents, childcare providers, coaches, babysitters, nannies, friends and parents of friends who may be responsible for your child’s care. If the school has questions about epilepsy and what to do if your child has a seizure, the Epilepsy Foundation of Central Ohio (EFCO), may be able to go to the school or daycare center to provide seizure training.
Children who have epilepsy are at risk for having learning problems in school. However not all children will have problems. Some children will have problems with memory, processing information, and paying attention in school. Some children with epilepsy also have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Learning problems may occur because the seizure activity or the medications interfere with learning. However, most often a child’s learning problems are due to the same underlying problem in the brain that causes the seizures. Often we cannot identify exactly what this problem is, but know there is a difference in how the brain is working which causes both the epilepsy and the learning difficulties. If your child is having problems in school, talk with your neurology provider. Public schools in Ohio are required by law to provide an evaluation for learning disabilities and to provide special education services. A neuropsychological evaluation done at the hospital may help to understand the learning problem.
Just as there is an increased risk for learning problems in children with epilepsy, there is also an increased risk for depression and anxiety. This may be a result of learning they have epilepsy and dealing with the changes this has on their life. This may have been present even before they began having seizures and may be related to the underlying problem that is causing seizures and learning problems. In addition, all seizure medications have some risk for causing changes in mood and behavior.
Common signs of depression and anxiety include: withdrawing from friends and family, eating less, problems sleeping, excessive worries, crying easily or more often than usual, negative statements about themselves, increased fears, or not wanting to attend school or activities. If you have any concerns about your child, please talk to your neurology provider or call and talk with a nurse in the office. If your child ever has thoughts of harming himself or others, call the neurology office immediately.
Most teenagers are able to drive if they take their medicine regularly and have not had a seizure for at least six (6) to twelve (12) months. When applying for a driver’s license, they will be given a form that they need to bring to their neurology provider to complete and return to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Laws vary from state to state so it is important to check your state laws if you live or move outside of Ohio.
It is important for you to take an active role in managing your epilepsy. You need to find out everything you can about your seizures, your medication, and epilepsy in general.
To prevent seizures you should:
Tell your parents and/or your neurology provider if you think you have had a seizure, are having any side effects to your medicine, problems with school, or feeling sad or worried.
All available birth controls methods can be used by women with epilepsy. However, some methods may interact with seizure medications and cause either the birth control or the seizure medicine to be less effective. Even if your daughter is using birth control for regulation of periods or other reasons, these may interfere with her seizure medications. Talk to your neurology provider before starting any form of birth control.
Most women with epilepsy have normal, healthy babies. However there is a slightly increased risk of birth defects in babies born to women who take seizure medicine. Fifty percent (50%) of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Therefore, as a precaution we recommend that all teenage girls take 1 mg of folic acid on a daily basis if they are taking seizure medicines once they start having periods. Folic acid may decrease the risk of some birth defects.
It is important to talk to your healthcare team before, during, and after pregnancy.
Epilepsy Information Services: 1-800-642-0500