Generalised epilepsy

Generalized epilepsy
Classification and external resources
Specialty neurology
ICD-10 G40.3
ICD-9-CM 345.0-345.1
MeSH D004829

Generalized epilepsy, also known as primary generalized epilepsy or idiopathic epilepsy, is a form of epilepsy characterised by generalised seizures with no apparent cause.[1] Generalized seizures, as opposed to partial seizures, are a type of seizure that impairs consciousness and distorts the electrical activity of the whole or a larger portion of the brain (which can be seen, for example, on electroencephalography, EEG).[2]

Generalized epilepsy is primary because the epilepsy is the originally diagnosed condition itself, as opposed to secondary epilepsy, which occurs as a symptom of a diagnosed condition.[3]


Generalized seizures can be either absence seizures, myoclonic seizures, clonic seizures, tonic-clonic seizures or atonic seizures.

Generalized seizures occur in various seizure syndromes, including myoclonic epilepsy, familial neonatal convulsions, childhood absence epilepsy, absence epilepsy, infantile spasms (West's syndrome), Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.


Most generalized epilepsy starts during childhood. While some patients outgrow their epilepsy during adolescence and no longer need medication, in others, the condition remains for life, thereby requiring lifelong medication and monitoring.


Seven anti-epileptic drugs are approved for use in cases of suspected primary generalized epilepsy:

Valproate, a relatively old drug, is often considered the first-line treatment. It is highly effective, but its association with fetal malformations when taken in pregnancy limits its use in young women.[4]

All anti-epileptic drugs (including the above) can be used in cases of partial seizures.


  4. Vajda, FJ; O'brien, TJ; Hitchcock, A; Graham, J; Cook, M; Lander, C; Eadie, MJ (November 2004). "Critical relationship between sodium valproate dose and human teratogenicity: results of the Australian register of anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy.". Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. 11 (8): 854–8. doi:10.1016/j.jocn.2004.05.003. PMID 15519862.
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