Epilepsy is the disruption of the normal pattern of electrical impulses in the brain that result in seizures. Most cases of epilepsy can be controlled with medication. Some children with epilepsy will outgrow the condition.

What causes epilepsy?

Most cases of epilepsy can be traced to a family incidence of the disorder, a head or brain injury, infection or illness. In some cases, the cause is unknown.

Is epilepsy serious?

Epilepsy is not only a danger to the individual with epilepsy, but can be a danger to others as well. During an epileptic seizure, the individual can fall and injure themselves. When someone has a seizure whilst driving or operating machinery, they run the risk of accidently injuring others. Kids with epilepsy are also at increased risk for drowning while bathing or swimming. Occasionally, sufferers die while having a seizure.

Can I prevent epilepsy?

Some cases of epilepsy are preventable when the causes are the result of injury or illness. However, epilepsy that seems to run in families is not preventable.

How do I know if my child has epilepsy?

The symptoms of epilepsy depend on the severity of the condition. Seizures can range from staring spells to convulsions. Kids with epilepsy may have any of the following symptoms:

  • Temporary confusion
  • Staring spells
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Complete loss of consciousness

How do I treat epilepsy?

Epilepsy generally is not curable, but it can, in most cases, be managed. There are medications available that can help control seizure activity and around 70% of epilepsy sufferers in New Zealand lead a healthy life through correct diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, brain surgery may be the best option. At home care includes plenty of rest (fatigue can increase the chance of seizures).

Should I call the doctor?

Seek immediate medical treatment at any time your child appears to be having a seizure. Your doctor or hospital emergency room physician can help you make important decisions regarding diagnosing, treating, and managing your child’s epilepsy.

What you need to know about epilepsy

  • Epilepsy is caused by electrical activity in the brain.
  • Most cases of epilepsy are inherited or caused by a head injury or brain trauma.
  • Epilepsy is serious and can be life-threatening.
  • Ask your doctor for advice in diagnosing and treating your child’s epilepsy.

Find more relevant articles and information about epilepsy:


Epilepsy New Zealand provides support for those with the condition and their carers. Visit their website here for more information.


Written by Rebecca Stigall with editing by Kidspot New Zealand. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health, Health Insite and Epilepsy New Zealand.

Last revised: Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.