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Benign Rolandic Epilepsy

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
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What Is Benign Rolandic Epilepsy of Childhood?

Kids with benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood 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 of childhood have problems with learning.

What Happens During Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Seizures?

The seizures in benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood 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:

  • facial twitching
  • 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?

If a child has a seizure, doctors will look for a cause. Kids who’ve had a seizure might need to see a pediatric neurologist (a doctor who treats brain, spine, and nervous system problems). Tests done can include:

  • EEG to see brain waves/electrical activity in the brain
  • 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. Many pediatric neurologists use a low-dose seizure medicine to treat it. The neurologist will do a VEEG around the teen years to see if the seizures have stopped. If they have, the child can stop taking any seizure medicines.

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, flashing lights, and antihistamine medicines (such as Benadryl).

Some children have learning or behavior problems during the years that they have seizures. While these usually go away after the seizures stop, 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 of childhood 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.

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: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: February 2021