What are the Different Types of Epilepsy?

Jeri Sullivan
Jeri Sullivan
An EEG test may help identify abnormal electrical activity in the brain that results from various types of seizures.
An EEG test may help identify abnormal electrical activity in the brain that results from various types of seizures.

Epilepsy, a disorder that causes the electrical pulses in the brain to become disturbed, affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. There are currently more than 40 known types of epilepsy and the most common types of epilepsy are childhood epilepsy, rolandic epilepsy, nocturnal epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, and partial epilepsy. The effects of epilepsy are most often seen in the form of seizures and are usually treated with medication.

Generalized epileptic seizures may cause loss of consciousness.
Generalized epileptic seizures may cause loss of consciousness.

Childhood epilepsy usually manifests itself with seizures and is often hard to diagnose in infants because the seizures resemble the startle reflex many babies show. The most common causes of childhood epilepsy are perinatal brain injury and a malformation of the central nervous system. Once a child is diagnosed, the physician may prescribe medication to control the generalized seizures. Generalized seizures are ones that originate in the brain and cause the child to suffer convulsions and possibly lose consciousness.

Rolandic epilepsy is considered one of the benign types of epilepsy and is most common in children. Most often the child will have only a partial seizure instead of a generalized seizure, and it usually affects just the facial area. As the child grows into a teen, the seizures may become significantly less frequent and in many cases stop altogether. This type of epilepsy is known as benign because of the number of children who outgrow the disorder.

Though there are several types of epilepsy, most do manifest with seizures. The seizures in nocturnal epilepsy, however, almost exclusively occur while the person is asleep. Most of these types of epileptics suffer from what is known as frontal lobe epilepsy. This form causes short, frequent seizures which when part of nocturnal epilepsy may be overlooked since the person is asleep. Treatment typically involves medication such as carbamazepine, clonazepam, ethosuximide, and phenobarbitol.

Idiopathic epilepsy is one of the types of epilepsy used when a diagnosis and cause is unclear. Physicians may use this diagnosis when there is a family history of epilepsy. When the brain shows no signs of malformations during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) but the patient does suffer from seizures, the doctor may indicate the patient is an idiopathic epileptic. Treatment is similar to that of other epileptics and includes anti-convulsive medication.

Partial epilepsy is one of the mildest types of epilepsy and is one of the more common types seen in patients. Partial epilepsy only affects a specific part of the brain, which then causes only one part of the body to have seizures or convulse. In partial epilepsy, the patient may drool, contract one hand, twitch their head to one side, or blink their eyes uncontrollably. This partial seizure is also known as a focal or local seizure since it only affects a specific area and not the entire body.

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    • An EEG test may help identify abnormal electrical activity in the brain that results from various types of seizures.
      By: Tobilander
      An EEG test may help identify abnormal electrical activity in the brain that results from various types of seizures.
    • Generalized epileptic seizures may cause loss of consciousness.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Generalized epileptic seizures may cause loss of consciousness.