Seven in 10 children grow out of epilepsy

Consumer Reports News: June 24, 2010 03:14 PM

If your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy, you may be worried that it will be a lifelong condition. But new research shows that the majority of children with epilepsy grow out of it, with or without treatment.

Doctors have long known that not all children who have seizures continue to have them into adulthood. But there hasn’t been much long-term research to find out exactly what’s likely to happen. A new study followed almost 500 children who’d been diagnosed with epilepsy, after having at least two seizures, to see what happened to them during the next 15 years. The children’s average age was 5 at the start of the study.

The study found that 7 in 10 children had stopped having seizures altogether by the time they were 20. They’d been free of seizures for more than five years, and most of them had stopped taking epilepsy medication. Children were more likely to be free of seizures if they responded well to treatment from the start, and had fewer seizures in the early years.

However, a minority (about 8 in 100) still had frequent seizures, with no seizure-free periods lasting more than three months. And 18 of the children had died during the 15 years of follow-up. All but one of the deaths was thought to be because of epilepsy. If your child has been free of seizures for some years, it may be worth asking your doctor to evaluate whether your child might reduce their dose of epilepsy medicine, or stop taking it, to see if it's really needed.

What you need to know. Epilepsy is not necessarily a lifelong condition. Many children with epilepsy will be free of seizures, and no longer needing medication, by the time they reach their 20s.

—Anna Sayburn, patient editor, BMJ Group has partnered with The BMJ Group to monitor the latest medical research and assess the evidence to help you decide which news you should use.

Take at look at what you need to know before starting epilepsy medication and what to consider before stopping epilepsy medication.

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