Epilepsy increases risk for cognitive problems in children

The onset of epilepsy can have a lasting impact on cognitive development in children, according to a recent study published in Neurology. Children who have normal IQs prior to experiencing a first seizure can develop problems with language, memory, learning and other cognitive skills.

The study highlights the importance of testing children with epilepsy for possible problems soon after they are diagnosed to avoid these issues affecting them later in life, says study author Philip Fastenau, PhD, professor of neurology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of neuropsychology with the Neurological Institute of University Hospitals in Cleveland.

The study also showed that children with additional risk factors, including multiple seizures and the use of epilepsy drugs, have an even higher risk for cognitive difficulties. The study did find that at the time of study participants’ first clinic visit—about three months after the first seizure—academic achievement was unaffected, which came as something of a surprise to Fastenau. “This suggests there is a window early in epilepsy for intervention to avoid hurting a child’s performance at school,” he says.