When a child is diagnosed with epilepsy, one of the first questions asked by parents is often “What does the future look like? Will my child always have epilepsy?”. Epilepsy is extremely varied and can affect each person diagnosed in different ways. Some people with epilepsy will have a handful of seizures in their entire life, whilst others may experience multiple seizures every day.
Epilepsy is most commonly developed during childhood, but it can start at any age. Whilst ‘growing out’ of epilepsy may be a little misleading, there is a good chance that a child will become seizure free. In fact, between 70% – 80% of children have their seizures controlled with the first or second medication they are prescribed. The odds of becoming seizure-free are increased in cases whereby the underlying cause is unknown and there is no family history of epilepsy.
Whether a child becomes seizure-free can depend on the type of epilepsy syndrome they have. There are a wide variety of syndromes, which can vary in their severity.
A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs that can be used to diagnose a particular epilepsy and enables healthcare professionals to provide more informed treatment options and a more accurate prognosis for what the future may hold. Diagnosing the syndrome is the first step towards more effective treatment and understanding whether it’s possible for a child to become seizure-free.
In a lot of cases, once a child becomes seizure-free they may be able to discontinue their prescribed medication. Some children may never experience another seizure even after discontinuation of their medication and for all intents and purposes appear to have ‘outgrown epilepsy’. However, everyone is different and some children may start to have seizures again days, months or even years after ceasing their epilepsy medication.
It’s important to remember that most children with epilepsy are able to lead healthy lives and will develop at a normal pace. However, there is no ‘cure’ for epilepsy, treatment is all about controlling it with medication and in some cases, the seizures may stop themselves.
In answer to the question in the title of this post, yes, it is possible to grow out of epilepsy in the sense that it’s possible for a child with epilepsy to never experience another seizure in their lifetime after the initial diagnosis. However, the distinction needs to be clear that this is becoming seizure-free rather than cured in the traditional sense.