Types of Epilepsy
Idiopathic Partial Epilepsy
Idiopathic partial epilepsy begins in childhood (between ages 5 and 8) and may be part of a family history. Also known as benign focal epilepsy of childhood (BFEC), this is considered one of the mildest types of epilepsy. It is almost always outgrown by puberty and is never diagnosed in adults.
Seizures tend to occur during sleep and are most often simple partial motor seizures that involve the face and secondarily generalized (grand mal) seizures. This type of epilepsy is usually diagnosed with an EEG.
Symptomatic Generalized Epilepsy
Symptomatic generalized epilepsy is caused by widespread brain damage. Injury during birth is the most common cause of symptomatic generalized epilepsy. In addition to seizures, these patients often have other neurological problems, such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy. Specific, inherited brain diseases, such as adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL) or brain infections (such as meningitis and encephalitis) can also cause symptomatic generalized epilepsy. When the cause of symptomatic general epilepsy cannot be identified, the disorder may be referred to as cryptogenic epilepsy. These epilepsies include different subtypes -- the most commonly known type is the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Multiple types of seizures (generalized tonic-clonic, tonic, myoclonic, tonic, atonic, and absence seizures) are common in these patients and can be difficult to control. Learn more about these seizure types.
Symptomatic Partial Epilepsy
Symptomatic partial (or focal) epilepsy is the most common type of epilepsy that begins in adulthood, but it does occur frequently in children. This type of epilepsy is caused by a localized abnormality of the brain, which can result from strokes, tumors, trauma, congenital (present at birth) brain abnormality, scarring or "sclerosis" of brain tissue, cysts, or infections.
Sometimes these brain abnormalities can be seen on MRI scans, but often they cannot be identified, despite repeated attempts, because they are microscopic.
This type of epilepsy may be successfully treated with surgery that is aimed to remove the abnormal brain area without compromising the function of the rest of the brain. Epilepsy surgery is very successful in a large number of epilepsy patients who failed multiple anticonvulsant medications (at least two or three drugs) and who have identifiable lesions. These patients undergo a presurgical comprehensive epilepsy evaluation in dedicated and specialized epilepsy centers.