Children's Hospital Colorado
Epilepsy Program

Epilepsy and Seizures in Children

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What is a seizure in a child?

A seizure is caused by a brief, strong surge of extra electrical activity between the cells in the brain. This activity causes physical or behavioral changes, which range from intense full body shaking to mild staring and lip smacking.

What is epilepsy in children?

Epilepsy is the name of the chronic medical condition in which a child has repeated seizures. It's also called a seizure disorder. When a child has two or more seizures that are not the result of another medical condition, they are considered to have epilepsy. There are many types of epilepsy, ranging from benign to intense.

What causes epilepsy in children?

There are many causes of epilepsy, including:

  • Genetic or metabolic disorders present at birth
  • Infections such as meningitis and encephalitis
  • Trauma or brain injury
  • Brain abnormality
  • Drug use or drug withdrawal
  • Metabolic levels, including low glucose and calcium and high ammonia and lactate
  • Stroke

Who gets epilepsy?

  • There are more than three million people in the United States with epilepsy; most of them are children and elderly people, and more than 200,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year.
  • New cases of epilepsy are most common among children, especially during the first year of life.
  • The basic, underlying risk of developing epilepsy is about 1%.
  • Individuals in certain populations are at higher risk. For example, it is estimated that epilepsy can be expected to develop in:
    • 25.8% of children with intellectual disability
    • 13% of children with cerebral palsy
    • 50% of children with cerebral palsy and intellectual disability

Next steps

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Michele Yang, MD

Michele Yang, MD

Neurology - Pediatric, Neuromuscular Medicine

Megan Barry, DO

Megan Barry, DO

Neurology - Pediatric, Vascular Neurology

Patient ratings and reviews are not available Why?

Greta Wilkening, PsyD, PhD

Greta Wilkening, PsyD, PhD

Neuropsychology, Neuropsychology - Pediatric

Patient ratings and reviews are not available Why?

Amy Brooks-Kayal, MD

Amy Brooks-Kayal, MD

Neurology - Pediatric, Neurology

Patient ratings and reviews are not available Why?