Epilepsy syndromes are defined by a cluster of features, including:
- seizure type or types and their severity and frequency
- the age of onset
- the causes of the seizures and whether there is a familial link
- the part of the brain involved
- electroencephalograph (EEG) activity
- seizure-provoking factors and
- the presence of other disorders in addition to seizures.
By understanding the nature and presentation of a particular syndrome, the treating doctor can implement the most appropriate form of treatment and may be able to predict whether seizures will lessen or disappear over time.
There are many different epilepsy syndromes, many, but not all, of which emerge during childhood. Some syndromes are symptomatic, which means an underlying cause can be identified. Others are called idiopathic or cryptogenic, where the cause cannot be identified or remains hidden.
Some of the epilepsy syndromes that develop during infancy or childhood are West's Syndrome (Infantile Spasms), Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, Benign Partial Epilepsy of Childhood (also known as Benign Rolandic Epilepsy or Benign Childhood Epilepsy with Centrotemporal Spikes), childhood absence epilepsy and Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy.
The international classification system for epilepsy syndromes is currently undergoing revision.
For further information on epilepsy syndromes, visit the International League Against Epilepsy website.