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Several different kinds of benign epilepsy exist. The most common types are benign idiopathic epilepsy, benign partial epilepsy, and benign rolandic epilepsy. Absence seizures are also sometimes considered a kind of benign epilepsy. People with these conditions generally live full, healthy lives.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes two or more seizures over a person's lifetime. Benign epilepsy is a kind of epilepsy that does not injure the brain and is not caused by something that will injure the brain. These conditions most often affect children. Most children will grow out of their benign epileptic conditions by young adulthood.
The most common type of benign epilepsy is benign idiopathic epilepsy. Another name for this condition is cryptogenetic epilepsy. This condition can affect children of any age. Seizure activity can start in infancy.
Idiopathic epilepsy can cause generalized or partial seizures. These can usually be controlled using anti-epileptic drugs. Children usually grow out of this condition without complications, but some may need to take medication into adulthood.
Benign partial epilepsy is actually a variation of idiopathic epilepsy. It first occurs between the ages of two and 13 years. Most children grow out of it by age 16. In the meantime, it is easily controlled by medication.
Epileptic activity associated with benign partial epilepsy generally occurs during sleep. The seizure activity often starts in the face and spreads to become a partial motor seizure. Doctors can diagnose this condition by using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain waves.
Another kind of benign epilepsy is slightly more common in boys. Benign rolandic epilepsy is named after the rolandic area of the brain, which controls movement of the face, the area most affected by the seizures. It can also be called childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes.
Rolandic seizures can start in children from age three to 13. Most children do not need treatment because their seizures happen during the night and seem to cause little disturbance to the child. Some behavioral problems and learning disabilities have been noted during the years when seizure activity is most common. These usually disappear as the child grows out of the condition, which usually happens by age 15.
Some medical professionals consider absence seizures to be benign seizures. Whether absence epilepsy can be called benign depends on the frequency and duration of the seizures. The distinction also depends on whether the condition follows the child into adulthood or develops into other conditions.
During an absence seizure, children are generally nonresponsive and unaware of their surroundings. They may stare into the distance, blink rapidly, or roll their eyes up. Most episodes last only a few seconds, although rare cases can last for days. The child usually does not know a seizure has occurred.