Epilepsy Syndromes

An epilepsy syndrome is a type of epilepsy that has a cluster of features. There are many features that may appear in a cluster. Not all of these features apply to every epilepsy syndrome. To diagnose an epilepsy syndrome, doctors look at:1

  • Type of seizures
  • Age at which seizures began
  • Cause of the seizures
  • Whether the seizures are inherited
  • What part of the brain is involved
  • What triggers the seizures
  • How severe, how often, and what time of day the seizures take place
  • Test results during and between seizures
  • Other health conditions that may be causing seizures

When you are diagnosed with an epilepsy syndrome, it helps guide your doctors to the most helpful treatments. It may also tell them whether your epilepsy is likely to become better or worse, or go into remission (go away entirely).

Epilepsy syndromes are most often diagnosed in infants and children.2

Types of epilepsy syndromes

The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) currently recognizes dozens of epilepsy syndromes, including:1,2

  • Autosomal-dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy
  • Autosomal-dominant epilepsy with auditory features
  • Benign familial neonatal or infantile epilepsy
  • Benign infantile epilepsy
  • Childhood absence epilepsy
  • Childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (benign rolandic epilepsy)
  • Doose syndrome (myoclonic atonic epilepsy)
  • Dravet syndrome
  • Early myoclonic encephalopathy (EME)
  • Epilepsy of infancy with migrating focal seizures
  • Epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures alone
  • Epilepsy with myoclonic absences
  • Epileptic encephalopathy with continuous spike and wave during sleep (CSWS)
  • Familial temporal lobe epilepsies
  • Febrile seizures
  • Febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome (FIRES)
  • Gastaut syndrome (self-limited, late-onset occipital epilepsy)
  • Genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+)
  • Jeavons syndrome (epilepsy with eyelid myoclonia)
  • Juvenile absence epilepsy
  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
  • Landau-Kleffner syndrome
  • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS)
  • Myoclonic encephalopathy in nonprogressive disorders
  • Myoclonic epilepsy of infancy
  • Ohtahara syndrome
  • Panayiotopoulos syndrome
  • Progressive myoclonic epilepsies
  • Reflex epilepsies
  • Self-limited familial and nonfamilial neonatal-infantile seizures
  • Sleep-related hypermotor epilepsy (SHE)
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE)
  • West syndrome (infantile spasms)

When doctors know which epilepsy syndrome you have, this tells them:

  • Whether the seizures can be controlled
  • Which medicine is most likely to work
  • Whether the disease is inherited
  • Whether learning and behavior issues are likely
  • What the chances are of remission

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: November 2021