A few of the many forms of epilepsy include absence epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and neocortical epilepsy. Some types of epilepsy are primarily seen in children -- these include Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Rasmussen's encephalitis, and childhood absence epilepsy. The most common infantile form of epilepsy is referred to as infantile spasms.
Just as there are many different types of seizures, there are many different types of epilepsy. Doctors have identified hundreds of different epilepsy syndromes -- disorders characterized by a specific set of symptoms that include epilepsy. Some of these syndromes appear to be hereditary. For other syndromes, the cause is unknown.
Epilepsy syndromes are frequently described by their symptoms or by where in the brain they originate. People should discuss the implications of their type of epilepsy with their doctors to understand the full range of symptoms, the possible treatments, and the prognosis.
People with absence epilepsy have repeated absence seizures that cause momentary lapses of consciousness. These seizures almost always begin in childhood or adolescence, and they tend to run in families, suggesting that they may be at least partially due to a defective gene or genes. Some people with absence seizures have purposeless movements during their seizures, such as a jerking arm or rapidly blinking eyes.
Others have no noticeable symptoms except for brief times when they are "out of it." Immediately after a seizure, the person can resume whatever he or she was doing; however, these seizures may occur so frequently that the person cannot concentrate in school or other situations. Childhood absence epilepsy usually stops when the child reaches puberty. Absence seizures usually have no lasting effect on intelligence or other brain functions.