Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition which affects the nervous system that makes a person susceptible to seizures. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races and ethnic background. According to the CDC, almost 3 million Americans live with epilepsy and nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. develop this condition annually. 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 can involve many different types of seizures: Some are easy to recognize, when your child’s body shakes and they become temporarily less aware. Other seizures don’t have any obvious outward signs at all.

Epilepsy affects about one percent of children. It is sometimes caused by an underlying disease, injury or brain development disorder or abnormal brain development before birth (such as cortical dysplasia).

In a child, seizures may be caused by:

  • Genetic changes, either passed down by parents or that happen when the baby is developing before birth
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumors

A child may have epilepsy if they have had two or more unprovoked seizures, meaning there is no detectable immediate cause of the seizures such as a high fever.

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.