Epilepsy Awareness Program - Epilepsy Glossary of Terms
This is an alphabetical guide to the terms used by doctors in describing symptoms and treatment of epilepsy.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive study of epilepsy. It is merely a summary of terms which, it is hoped, will lead to further reading. May we Emphasize here that we are not responsible for the accuracy of the contents, nor liable for any errors and readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Biomedresearches will not be liable for any direct, indirect, Consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the site. The information mentioned here or in any related pages does not replace the patient/physician relationship.
There is loss of consciousness but the person experiencing the seizure does not fall or convulse. Popularly but incorrectly referred to as “petit mal” seizures.
The person with the condition continues to experience seizures.
The generic name for the drug Diamox®
acetazolamide modified release
The generic name for the drug Diamix SR®
Adrenocorticotrophic hormone. Can be helpful in treatment of infantile spasms when the usual antiepileptic drugs are having little effect.
adult onset seizures
Seizures which commence for the first time in adult life.
A partial seizure which normally results in movement of the head, eyes and arm.
aetiology of epilepsy
The causes of epilepsy.
The use of a portable EEG system which allows continuous EEG recordings to be taken over a 24 hour or longer period.
A drug used to control convulsive seizures.
A drug prescribed to control epileptic seizures, either convulsive, non-convulsive or both.
Loss of co-ordination.
The first symptom of an epileptic seizure, in the form of a physical sensation – sometimes a prior warning to the person of the onset of a seizure.
Confused semi-purposeful movements usually lasting for a few minutes but occasionally lasting an hour or more.
The generic name for a group of drugs including - Mogadon®, Valium®, Rivotril® and Frisium®.
Seizures which occur unexpectedly following a long period of seizure control.
The generic name of the antiepileptic drug Tegretol®.
carbamazepine modified release
The generic name of the antiepileptic drug Tegretol Retard®
A state where the muscles remain in a semi-rigid state which could last for several hours. Frequently associated with narcolepsy. It is not epilepsy.
Epileptic seizures occurring at the time of or just before menstrual periods.
Computerised Axial Tomographic scan. A hi-tech computerised X-ray of the brain. Also known as a CT scan.
A structural abnormality in the brain.
classification of seizures
An internationally agreed system of classifying different types of seizure.
The generic name of an antiepileptic drug Frisium®.
The generic name of an antiepileptic drug Rivotril®.
Twitches and generalised rhythmic muscular movements associated with seizures.
complex partial seizures
Seizures which often arise from the temporal lobe of the brain and in which consciousness is impaired.
To conscienciously take drug therapy as and when prescribed.
Violent jerking of muscles. Also called “fit” or “seizure.”
Epilepsy which has been present from birth.
The trade name for the drug valproic acid
Epilepsy having no obvious cause.
A feeling of repeating a previous experience. It may be an aura or a temporal lobe seizure.
The trade name for the antiepileptic drug acetazolamide
A trade name for the drug diazepam
The generic name of drugs used to stop prolonged seizures (“status epilepticus”). The trade names of this preparation are Valium®, Diazemuls® or Stesolid®.
A possible alternative diagnosis to epilepsy.
A generic name for the drug Epanutin®. Also known generally as phenytoin.
Seizures occurring in the daytime.
Statutory requirements which determine whether a person with epilepsy may hold a driving licence or have it withdrawn.
The effect that different drugs have on each other.
drug level measurement
Tests to establish the level of a drug in the blood.
drug side effects
The unwanted effects which drugs may produce when used in treatment.
Electro Convulsive Therapy. A technique rarely used in psychiatric medicine which is used to induce convulsions. It plays no part in the treatment of epilepsy.
Electroencephalogram. A test which measures the electrical activity of the brain, used in the investigation and management of epilepsy.
A trade name for the drug ethosuximide
The trade name of the drug phenytoin
The name given to the condition in which people are subject to recurrent, unprovoked seizures.
Charitable organisations which exist to help those who have epilepsy and their families.
Centres offering residential care for those with severe epilepsy.
Trade name of the drug sodium valproate
The generic name for the drugs Zarontin® and Emeside®.
A seizure occurring in a child under the age of five and associated with a rise in the child’s temperature.
A word frequently used instead of “seizure” or “convulsion.”
focal motor seizure
A seizure arising from a part of the brain which controls movement. If it arises in the part controlling the movement of the left arm then that arm will move without control during the seizure.
The seizure is clearly identified as starting in a particular part of the brain.
focal sensory seizure
An epileptic seizure which involves feelings such as tingling sensations rather than convulsive movement. There is no loss of consciousness.
The trade name for the drug clobazam
frontal lobe seizure
A seizure which has its origin in the frontal lobe of the brain.
The generic name of the antiepileptic drug Neurontin®,
The trade name for the drug tiagabine
A trade name for the drug phenobarbitone,
Seizures which involve abnormal electrical activity across the whole brain. There is always a loss of consciousness. Tonic-clonic (grand mal) and absence (petit mal) seizures are examples of generalised seizures.
The chemical name of a drug.
Condition directly passed on from one or both parents.
grand mal seizure
Popular term for what is correctly called a tonic-clonic seizure.
A possible side effect of phenytoin whereby the gums overgrow, the teeth become unsightly and may bleed.
A possible side effect of phenytoin which results in an excess growth of body and facial hair.
The trade name for the drug midazolam
Seizures which are provoked by over breathing particularly absence seizures.
Latin for “stroke” but also meaning “fit,” “convulsion” or “seizure.”
Relating to a “fit,” “convulsion” or “seizure.”
Epilepsy with no known cause. Now recognised to have genetic causes.
International League Against Epilepsy.
incidence of epilepsy
The number of new diagnoses of epilepsy occurring in a year in a population of 1,000. The time limit is usually one year.
Seizures occurring in infants commonly between four and nine months and rarely after twelve months.
Stroke like episodes sometimes often mistakenly diagnosed as being epilepsy. It is the result of an inadequate flow of blood to the brain.
The time between seizures
Epilepsy which is very difficult or nearly impossible to control satisfactorily.
Drugs injected directly into muscle tissue.
Drugs introduced by injection directly into a vein.
Jacksonian march or seizure
The type of seizure called after the English neurologist Hughlings Jackson, now referred to as focal motor seizures.The seizure begins in the fingers or toes and spreads or moves (“marches”) up the limb to involve the whole limb, or the whole of one side of the body.
Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
The trade name for the drug levetiracetam
A high fat diet sometimes recommended when drugs fail to control seizures.
A childhood epileptic disorder in which the child has frequent seizures of different kinds and has severe learning difficulties.
The trade name of the drug lamotrigine,
The generic name of an antiepileptic drug Lamictal®.
Disease of, or damage to part of the body.
The generic name for the drug Keppra®
Region of the brain which controls or co-ordinates specific activities of the body. Each side of the brain has four lobes– frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital.
A drug which is used when a seizure is prolonged (“status epilepticus”). It is given intravenously.
The trade name for the drug pregabalin
A small bracelet/necklace worn to advise that the person has a specific medical condition, including epilepsy.
The generic name for the drug Hypnovel®
The use of a single drug in treatment.
Seizures which begin with localised movements of the body.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A hi-tech test used to obtain highly defined images of the brain.
Seizures typified by strong muscular jerks.
myoclonus, benign infantile
Muscular jerks in infants occurring when the child is awake or asleep.
Muscular jerks during sleep. They are not seizures.
The generic name for the drug Primidone®.
Continually and suddenly falling asleep. Not connected with epilepsy.
A doctor specialising in neurological disorders of adults, including epilepsy.
The trade name of the drug gabapentin
Seizures in newly born infants.
Severe nightmares, sometimes mistaken as being epilepsy.
Seizures which occur when the person is asleep.
Epileptic seizures which do not involve any convulsive movements.
Non Epileptic Attack Disorder. Events occur which resemble epileptic seizures but in fact not related to epilepsy.
These events are vary often of psychological origin.
occipital lobe seizures
Seizures arising from the occipital lobe of the brain.
The generic name for the drug Trileptal®
A doctor specialising in neurological disorders of children, including epilepsy.
A drug used to stop prolonged seizures (“status epilepticus”). It is usually introduced rectally.
Seizures which initially arise in only one part of the brain.
Seizures occuring around the time of menstruation.
Positron Emission Tomography. A newly developed hi-tech diagnostic test which can be used to identify areas of the brain that are the cause of seizures.
The popular name given incorrectly to generalised absence seizures.
A long established antiepileptic drug now rarely prescribed as a drug of first choice
The generic name of the drug Epanutin®, manufactured by Parke-Davis Research Laboratories.
Seizures which are provoked by a stimulus of light (usually flashing), television or certain video/computer patterns.
The concentration of a drug in blood plasma.
polypharmacy or polytherapy
Using more than one drug to control seizures
The period of time following the cessation of a seizure.
Seizures resulting from injury to the brain.
prednisone or prednisilone
A steroid drug that may be used in certain types of epilepsy if seizures are not being controlled by the usual antiepileptic drugs.
The generic name for the drug Lyrica®
prevalence of epilepsy
The number of cases of epilepsy in every 1,000 of the population.
Seizures which occur prior to a woman’s monthly period. Also called catamenial epilepsy.
primary generalised seizure
A generalised seizure without any warning symptoms.
It is the generic name of the drug Mysoline®.
The future outlook.
A trade name for the drug phenobarbitone,
Medicine which is given to prevent the occurrence of a problem rather than to treat it when it occurs.
Convulsive movements which resemble an epileptic seizure but which are not, in fact, epileptic. See NEAD
Seizures which arise from the temporal lobe of the brain.
The introduction of drugs directly via the rectum.
Seizures which are provoked by a specific stimulus, e.g. flashing lights, reading, eating.
epilepsy that is unresponsive to treatment
A period without seizures , usually greater than a year
The trade name for the drug clonazepam
The generic name for the drug Inovelon®
The trade name for the drug vigabatrin
Seizures occurring in infants and also called infantile spasms. The infant’s head suddenly and forcefully bends forward while the knees bend and the arms flex, or extend.
secondarily generalised seizures
Seizures in which the progression is from being partial (either simple or complex) at the outset, to becoming generalised in their conclusion.
Another word for “fit” or “convulsion.”
Seizures which are associated with sensations or feelings such as tingling or warmth in one part of the body, or with an unusual taste, or with abdominal pain/discomfort.
Measurements of drug levels in blood serum.
simple partial seizures
Seizures which affect only one part of the body (e.g. one side of the face or one limb, or one side of the body) and in which consciousness is normal or unimpaired.
The generic name of the antiepileptic drug Epilim®.
sodium valproate modified release
The generic name for the drug Epilim Chrono®
Findings on the EEG which are typical of some forms of epileptic activity.
A dangerous condition where one seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness or in which the seizure is prolonged.
A preparation of the drug diazepam. It is administered rectally in the treatment of status epilepticus.
Seizures which are a symptom of some underlying brain disorder.
Simple faints, sometimes misinterpreted as being epilepsy.
The trade name for the drug carbamazepine
The trade name for the drug carbamazepine modified release
Simultaneous video and EEG recordings of a patient.
temporal lobe seizures
Seizures arising from the temporal lobe of the brain, otherwise known as complex partial seizures.
The effects that a drug may have on a developing foetus.
The generic name for the drug Gabitril®
Seizures where the body goes stiff. They are similar to tonic-clonic seizures but there is no clonic (i.e. jerking) phase.
Popularly known as grand mal seizures. The tonic phase is when the body goes stiff and is followed by the clonic phase, where the body convulses or jerks.
Injury due to accident.
Events which can provoke seizures, e.g. fatigue, menstrual cycle, poor compliance, flashing lights or alcohol.
A trade name of the drug diazepam.
The generic name for the drug Convulex®
The generic name of the antiepileptic drug Sabril®
Seizures accompanied by abnormal vision or by visual hallucinations.
A test administered by a clinical neuropsychologist to establish suitability for epilepsy surgery.
Seizures which occur as medication is withdrawn, the person having been free of seizures whilst taking effective antiepileptic medication. These seizures usually only occur if the medication is withdrawn or stopped too quickly. Also seen after suddenly stopping some drugs of addiction, for instance alcohol or benzodiesepines.
A trade name of the drug ethosuximide
The trade name for the drug zonisamide
The generic name for the drug Zonegran®
See Also: Neurophysiology Health Corner
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