Absence Seizure: 

A type of generalized seizure usually seen in children, characterized by staring, accompanied by a 3 per second spike and wave pattern on the electroencephalograph. These seizures respond well to medication and most children outgrow them.


Anticonvulsant: (antiepileptic drug):

A medication used in prevention of the occurrence of seizures or to stop an ongoing series of seizures.


Atonic Seizure:

Known as "Drop Attack", a type of seizure that causes the body to suddenly fall by losing muscle tone. May cause injuries of the face and head.



Involuntary movements which accompany seizures, such as chewing, fumbling at a button or pulling on clothes. Can occur in generalized or partial seizures.



A warning that a seizure may begin, often described as a "funny feeling". Some auras may be a small seizure that may develop into a larger seizure, or disappear.


Catamenial Epilepsy:

(CE) is when seizures cluster around certain phases of a woman's menstrual cycle


Clonic Seizure:

An epileptic seizure characterized by rhythmic or semirhythmic contractions of a group of muscles. The arms, neck, and facial muscles are most commonly involved.


Complex Partial Seizure:

A seizure that begins in a specific location in the brain and alters consciousness, causing confusion.


Computerized Axial Tomography:

A CAT or CT scan. This type of x-ray uses a computer to assemble multiple images, producing a detailed picture of the skull and brain.


Comprehensive Epilepsy Center:

A medical facility consisting of an epilepsy clinic and epilepsy monitoring unit staffed by neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, technologists, a clinical coordinator, and a social worker specially trained to help people with epilepsy. An epilepsy center also employs sophisticated technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, single photon emission computerized tomography, and positron emission tomography scans.



A seizure characterized by stiffening of the body, jerking, and sometimes excess salivation (foaming at the mouth), loss of urine control, and sometimes followed by a period of confusion.


Cryptogenic Epilepsy:

Presumed to be nongenetic, but cause unidentified.


Dravet Syndrome: also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a rare and catastrophic form of intractable Epilepsy that begins in infancy, with an estimated incidence rate of 1:15,700 . It is a debilitating, life-long condition that can severely impede the quality of life of the patient. Patients experience frequent seizures, poor seizure control, and developmental delays. Initial seizures are most often prolonged events and in the second year of life other seizure types begin to emerge. Development remains on track initially, with plateaus and a progressive decline typically beginning in the second year of life. Individuals with Dravet syndrome face a higher incidence of SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy)



 a small metal contact attached to a wire designed to record brain waves from the scalp or inside the brain.


Electroencephalogram: (EEG):

A tracing of brain waves, used to search for epileptic spikes and abnormal rhythms.



A neurological condition that intermittently produces brief disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain, called seizures.


Epileptic Focus:

The site in the brain where a seizure begins.



A neurologist with special training who treats patients with epilepsy.



A seizure.


Generalized Seizure:

A seizure that affects both hemispheres of the brain.


Grand Mal Seizure:

A convulsion.



A type of epilepsy surgery in which one of the hemispheres of the brain is removed or disconnected. Can be extremely helpful in controlling seizures in appropriate patients.


Idiopathic Epilepsy:

Unidentified cause, but presumed to be genetic in origin.



Refers to seizures that cannot be stopped by medication.


Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS):

Is a rare and often debilitating form of childhood-onset Epilepsy. The syndrome is characterized by a triad of signs including multiple seizure types, moderate to severe cognitive impairment, and an abnormal EEG with slow spike-wave complexes. This triad of mixed seizures, abnormal EEG and intellectual impairment represents one of the most difficult forms of Epilepsy to treat. LGS is also a physically dangerous epilepsy syndrome of childhood because of the frequent falls, injuries, and cognitive impairment that can severely limit quality of life.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

A scan that uses a powerful magnet instead of x-rays to form an extremely detailed image of the brain.



An inflammation of the covering of the brain.


Myoclonic Seizure:

Characterized by sudden muscle jerks, often confined to one or more limbs; there may be single or several jerks. May occur while falling asleep or within a short time of waking up.



A sudden, very brief muscle jerk of the body. Can be seen in a number of different epilepsy syndromes.



A doctor who is skilled at diagnosing and treating diseases related to the nervous system.



A nerve cell. Billions of neurons interact to make up a working brain. Epileptic discharges are produced when groups of neurons misfire.



A substance that sends nerve impulses across a synapse.


Partial Seizure:

A seizure that begins in a specific location in the brain, such as the temporal lobe.


Petit Mal Seizure:

Same as absence seizure.



An inactive substance sometimes used as a basis for comparison when new drugs are tested.


Positron emission Tomography (PET):

A scan that uses an injection or radioactive tracer to measure brain metabolism in an effort to locate the seizure focus. Often part of the evaluation before seizure surgery.Postictal: the period immediately after a seizure.



Clinically resemble epileptic seizures but without epileptic discharges from the brain. Also called psychogenic or nonepileptic seizures, most often caused by severe psychosocial stress.



A sudden change in behavior or momentary disruption of the senses, to short periods of unconsciousness or staring spells, to muscle jerks or convulsions. Some people may experience more than one type.


Simple Partial Seizure:

A seizure that begins in a specific location in the brain but does not alter consciousness. It may produce abnormal sensation, such as an unpleasant smell, or a motor movement, such as jerking of the arm.


Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT):

A scan that uses an injection of a radioactive tracer to measure blood flow in the brain. Typically two SPECT scans are done, one during a seizure and one in between seizures. SPECT scans can help identify a seizure focus in preparation for surgery.



A characteristic finding on the electroencephalograph in patients with epilepsy. A spike is the result of an abnormal synchronized electrical discharge in a population of neurons.


Symptomatic Epilepsy: 

Secondary to a previous CNS injury such as head trauma, stroke or infection; cause can be identified.



The place at which a nerve impulse passes from one neuron to another.



Continuous monitoring of the electroencephalogram, often with video.


Temporal Lobe: 

A part of the brain important in memory and controlling speech. Often the site of the epileptic focus.


Therapeutic Range:

The range of drug levels within which most patients will experience significant therapeutic effect without an undesirable degree of adverse reactions. It is only a guide. Often patients require more or less medication to control their seizures than suggested by the therapeutic range listed on the laboratory report.


Tonic-Clonic Seizure: 

This type of seizure causes loss of consciousness, the body to stiffen, and then often the person will fall to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. There may be changes in blood pressure, increased saliva and loss of bladder control.


Tonic Seizure:

This type of seizure causes a person's body to stiffen, because all the body's muscles contract. The person may sound like they are crying out as air is pushed out of their lungs and they may lose control of their bladder or bowels.


Vagal Stimulator: 

A device designed to control seizures, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, but with the electrode attached to the vagus nerve in the neck.


Source: Epilepsy Advocate, UCB BioPharmaceutical and Wikipedia

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