Seizure Disorders


Here you’ll find answers to some of the questions that parents often have about this condition. Additional resources are listed at the bottom of the page. Diagnosis and management information can be found in the Seizures/Epilepsy module, which is written for primary care clinicians but also may be of help to parents and family members.

What are seizures/epilepsy and what causes them?

Seizures are sudden, involuntary, time-limited alterations in behavior, motor activity, autonomic function, consciousness, or sensation, accompanied by an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Seizures can be provoked by acute medical conditions (e.g., trauma, electrolyte disturbances, meningitis) or they can occur without provocation. Epilepsy is a condition in which an individual has more than one unprovoked seizure.

What are the symptoms of seizures/epilepsy?

Different types of seizures look very different. Some common types include absence epilepsy, where a child may just blink and looked daze for seconds; partial complex seizures where a child may smell a funny smell and then have some minor jerking on one part of the body; or generalized tonic clonic, also known as grand mal seizures, where the child may fall to the ground, jerking violently. If you are concerned that some behavior your child has may be a seizures, you should discuss this behavior with a pediatrician.

How is it diagnosed?

Seizure diagnosis is made clinically by your child's provider understanding the events your child is having, how often he is having them, what brings them on, etc. An EEG will generally be performed if a child is having seizures to get information regarding the type of seizure to guide evaluation and treatment.

What is the prognosis?

Different types of seizures have different prognoses. Some kinds are associated with developmental delay and are very difficult-to-control seizures; others may require life-long medication but have no effect on development; and others may be treated for two years and not recur again. Ask your provider for more specific information.

What is the risk for other family members or future babies?

The risk for other family members and future babies will change depending on the type of seizures. Some seizures have a genetic component, others are caused by environmental factors, e.g., lack of oxygen during pregnancy.

What treatments/therapies/medications are recommended or available?

Seizures are generally first treated with medications to stop the seizures, although some kinds of seizures may not require treatment. Although many children stop having seizures with their first medication, other seizures are very difficult to treat and the child may be on several medications. When medications aren't working well, there are other options including epilepsy surgery, the vagal nerve stimulator, and the ketogenic diet.

How will my child and our family be impacted?

How your child and family will be impacted will depend on the type of seizure. Some seizures are easy to treat; your child will be put on medication for a two-year seizure-free interval, then the medication will be slowly discontinued, and your child won't have any more seizures. Other seizures may be very difficult to treat, requiring several medications, and other treatments such as the ketogenic diet. Some seizures may be associated with developmental delay and intellectual disability.


Information & Support

Where can I go for further information?

For Parents and Patients

American Epilepsy Society
Information and resources regarding epilepsy for professionals and families.

Epilepsy (
A page about epilepsy for children.

Epilepsy (MedlinePlus)
Offers numerous links to patient/consumer information about epilepsy; from the National Library of Medicine.

Epilepsy Foundation
A national organization that provides information about epilepsy; programs to improve epilepsy treatment; materials to assist in helping people with epilepsy find jobs; activities in schools to educate the public; activities to educate policymakers; funds for research; and news about conferences and other items of interest.

Prescription Assistance Programs (American Epilepsy Society)
Information and links to various prescription assistance programs.

Seizures, convulsions, and epilepsy (
General information about convulsions, seizures, and epilepsy from

Epilepsy (
Detailed information about epilepsy and treatment from the NIH.

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Authors & Reviewers

Last update/revision: December 2015; initial publication: October 2012
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Funding: The Medical Home Portal thanks the 2011-2012 URLEND Medical Home Portal trainees group for their contribution to this page.