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Benign Rolandic Epilepsy

What Is Benign Rolandic Epilepsy?

Kids with benign rolandic epilepsy have seizures that involve twitching, numbness, or tingling of the face or tongue.

They typically happen in the early morning or just before bedtime. They also can happen during sleep. Kids almost always stop having these seizures by the time they reach their teen years.

Some children with benign rolandic epilepsy have problems with learning, even if the seizures are well-controlled.

What Happens During Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Seizures?

The seizures in benign rolandic epilepsy are focal seizures. This means that they affect only one side of the brain at a time. They can shift from side to side.

The seizures usually last less than 2 minutes. During one, a child will have:

  • twitching, usually in the face, but it can include the arms and/or legs
  • numbness and tingling in the face or tongue
  • drooling
  • problems speaking
  • if awake, full awareness during the seizure

Sometimes, a seizure can develop into a generalized tonic-clonic seizure in which the whole-body jerks with forceful movements.

What Causes Benign Rolandic Epilepsy?

Doctors don't know what causes benign rolandic epilepsy. Some kids may have a relative who also has epilepsy. Recently, several gene mutations were discovered in such families.

How Is Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose the condition based on the description of the seizures, their timing, the child’s age and development, and results from an EEG test (to see brain waves/electrical activity in the brain). 

Kids who’ve had a seizure might need to see a pediatric neurologist (a doctor who treats brain, spine, and nervous system problems). Other tests done can include:

  • VEEG, or video electroencephalography (EEG with video recording)
  • MRI scans to get very detailed images of the brain

How Is Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Treated?

Not all children with benign rolandic epilepsy need treatment. Those who have recurrent seizures generally need to take medicine to stop them. Many pediatric neurologists use a low-dose seizure medicine. If a child hasn't had a seizure in more than 2 years, the neurologist will do an EEG to see when and if the child can stop taking the medicine. Most children outgrow benign rolandic epilepsy around the teen years.

How Can Parents Help?

If your child takes medicine, make sure you give it exactly as directed. Also help your child avoid known seizure triggers such as lack of sleep.

Some children have learning or behavior problems, even if the seizures are well-controlled. Getting help from specialists early on will support your child's academic and emotional success.

No special care is needed during a typical benign rolandic epilepsy seizure. But because it could lead to a tonic-clonic seizure, make sure that you and other adults and caregivers (family members, babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc.) know what to do if one happens. Your doctor may prescribe an emergency medicine to give if your child has a long seizure or many seizures in a short amount of time. Be sure to ask your doctor about a seizure rescue plan for your child.

What Else Should I Know?

If your child has epilepsy, reassure them that they’re not alone. Your doctor and the care team can answer questions and offer support. They also might be able to recommend a local support group. Online organizations can help too, such as:

Reviewed by: Lily Tran, MD, Andrew I. Mower, MD
Date Reviewed: 10-02-2022

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