• An epilepsy syndrome is defined by a group of features usually occuring together.
  • The features in a syndrome may include types of seizures commonly seen, age when seizures commonly begin, part of the brain involved, usual course, genetic information, and much more. 
  • Collectively this description provides information on what medicine and other treatments may be helpful.


When a disorder is defined by a characteristic group of features that usually occur together, it is called a syndrome. These features may include symptoms, which are problems that the person will notice. They also may include signs, which are things that the doctor will find during the examination or with laboratory tests. Doctors and other health care professionals often use syndromes to describe a person's epilepsy.

Epilepsy syndromes are defined by a cluster of features. These features may include:

  • The type or types of seizures
  • The age at which the seizures begin
  • The causes of the seizures
  • Whether the seizures are inherited
  • The part of the brain involved
  • Factors that provoke seizures
  • How severe and how frequent the seizures are
  • A pattern of seizures by time of day
  • Certain patterns on the EEG, during and between seizures
  • Brain imaging findings, for example, MRI or CT scan
  • Genetic information
  • Other disorders in addition to seizures
  • The prospects for recovery or worsening

Not every syndrome will be defined by all these features, but most syndromes will be defined by a number of them. Classifying a person's epilepsy as belonging to a certain syndrome often provides information on what medications or other treatments will be most helpful. It also may help the doctor to predict whether the seizures will go into remission (lessen or disappear).

Authored by: Gregory L. Holmes | MD on 1/2008
Reviewed by: Robert Fisher, MD, PhD on 9/2013

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