July 15, 2021

What is benign rolandic epilepsy?

About Epilepsy

Benign rolandic epilepsy is the most common type of childhood epilepsy. Learn about benign rolandic seizures and how they are diagnosed and treated.

It can be worrying for any parent to hear that their child has a medical condition. If your child’s doctor has said they might have benign rolandic epilepsy (BRE), you will naturally want to know more. 

The good news is that, as the name suggests, benign rolandic epilepsy is unlikely to do any real harm to your child’s development. Almost all children who have benign rolandic seizures grow out of them by their late teens and very few are affected negatively in the long term. 

Read on to learn more about BRE and how it is treated.

Benign rolandic epilepsy is most common among children and teenagers

Benign rolandic epilepsy overview

BRE is the most common type of epilepsy to affect children. 

Epilepsy is a word that describes a variety of conditions which cause people to have seizures. Our brains are continually generating small electrical signals, but in people with epilepsy, these signals can sometimes become disorganized. A discharge of electricity can cause unusual behaviour in other parts of the body, such as jerking, shaking, or foaming at the mouth.  

Learn more: What happens in your brain during a seizure? 

In BRE, children have seizures which start in a part of the brain called the rolandic area, which is where the name comes from.

Most children with BRE have their seizures at night (they may wake up because they are shaking or feel strange). Over 10-20 percent have their seizures while awake during the day, and others have seizures both in the day and at night.  

Scientists believe that benign rolandic seizures have a genetic cause because they often happen to people in the same families. If your child has BRE, you might want to ask any of your relatives if they have experienced the same thing. 

Symptoms of benign rolandic epilepsy

Children and teenagers with BRE often experience the following kinds of symptoms (you should always get a diagnosis from an epilepsy specialist before jumping to conclusions): 

  • Twitching or stiffness in the face
  • Tingling or ‘electrical’ feelings in the mouth, face and throat
  • Jerking and shaking
  • Wetting themselves
  • Losing consciousness
  • Migraines

Diagnosing benign rolandic seizures

If your child starts having some of the symptoms described above, it is important to speak to a medical professional. To diagnose if your child has BRE, they will:

  • Take a family history 
  • Ask your child to describe what their seizures feel like
  • Ask you to describe the seizures you have witnessed (if you can provide video recordings, this well be extra helpful)
  • Use an EEG machine which can help figure out where in the brain your child’s seizures are starting

You might also want to record each time your child has a seizure in Epsy and share this with their healthcare professional, you can also connect with Epsy Hub - the platform for healthcare professionals. The more information the doctor has, the better they can understand your child’s condition.

Treatment for BRE

In many cases, doctors choose not to treat benign rolandic epilepsy with any kind of medication. This is because the side effects of powerful seizure medicine can be quite strong. If your child only has occasional seizures at night, it is often seen as better to let them grow out of it. 

On the other hand, if they experience seizures during the day and at school, then it might be preferable to take some medication. 

You, your child and your doctor can work together to decide on the best treatment pathway for your family.