Glossary of Terms | Epilepsy Foundation

Glossary of Terms

A type of generalised seizure. These seizures typically cause a very brief lapse of consciousness, so brief that they may go unnoticed, and are characterised by staring.

Medication, known as ASM, prescribed to minimise the instances of seizures experienced by the person living with epilepsy.

A type of generalised seizure sometimes referred to as a ‘drop attack’ where there is a sudden loss of muscle tone that may cause falling.

A focal seizure where the person can feel and remember the experience.

A repetitive, automatic movement occurring during or after seizures (e.g. fiddling with clothes, or repeated swallowing).

Blood tests are usually ordered to check the overall health of a person.

The inner cheek cavity.

Relating to the brain and its blood vessels.

A structure found inside the nucleus of the cell in all organisms. It is made up of proteins and DNA organized into genes. In each cell there are normally 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 in total).

This is sometimes called dual diagnosis and is a term used to describe when a person is diagnosed with more than one condition that have co-contributing impacts on the person.

Related to the thinking processes, and includes memory, problem solving, attention, concentration etc.

A term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills.

Naturally accompanying, associated, or simultaneous.

A chemical at the centre of cells for all living things. It controls the structure and purpose of each cell and carries genetic information.

A genetic alteration that is present for this first time in one person as a result of a mutation (change).

Also called drug-refractory epilepsy. Is a type of epilepsy that does not respond to seizure medications and is defined as a failure of adequate trials of two tolerated and appropriately chosen and used ASM schedules to achieve sustained seizure freedom. (ILAE)

A state where awareness is not maintained throughout an episode.

An EEG performed over an extended period of time while a person is being monitored by a video camera. If an event occurs and is recorded, the doctor can then view both the filmed activity and the EEG recording the brain activity.

An ECG is used to record the heart’s electrical activity. An ECG involves placing electrodes on the arms, legs and chest. These electrodes pick up the electrical signals from the heart.

An EEG records small electrical signals from the brain onto a computer. Small discs, called electrodes, are placed on a person’s scalp using temporary glue. The electrodes pick up electrical signals and brain waves and pass them along wires to the EEG machine. The electrodes pick up electrical activity, but don’t give out electricity.

Medication prescribed for the control of seizures, administered during a seizure as an emergency response.

The EMMP provides information on the medication; the dose; how and when it is to be administered and for which type of seizure. Epilepsy: A diagnosis of epilepsy means that the person has started experiencing seizures on a recurring basis. Not all seizures result in a diagnosis of epilepsy.

The EMP provides information about the individual's seizure types, triggers, support needs and emergency procedures.

The scientific and medical study of the causes and incidence and prevalence of a disease within a population.

The cause or set of causes of a disease or condition.

Used for assessing the consciousness level of a person when not obvious (e.g. voice commands or gentle physical stimuli).

These seizures occur when the seizure activity occurs in only part of the brain.

The new term for psychogenic seizure. Formerly also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizure or non-epileptic seizure.

A seizure that affects the whole brain. Common generalised seizures include tonic-clonic seizures and absence seizures.

A kind of pattern formed of geometric shapes and typically repeated (e.g. lines, circles, triangles, rectangles).

The passing of genetic information (I.e., genes) from a parent to their child.

Means that something is dissimilar, varied or diverse.

Means that something is similar, comparable or the same.

A virus that attacks the cells in the body that help fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other diseases.

The period of time during a seizure. This differs from interictal, the time between seizures, and postictal, the time immediately after a seizure.

Describes a disease or disorder that has no known cause.

A type of seizure (characterised by brief, sudden flexion of the head, trunk and limbs) found in infancy and early childhood.

A high fat diet sometimes used to control seizures. The Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) is also sometimes used to control difficult to control seizures.

A MRI scan looks at a person’s brain structure. A MRI uses magnetic fields and radio-waves which provide more detail than a CT scan. It produces very clear images of the brain without using x-rays.

Is the set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms.

MICA paramedics have a higher clinical skill set and can perform more advanced medical procedures.

A variation on the traditional low-carbohydrate Atkins diet, adjusted to promote seizure control in some people with epilepsy.

Involves a brief, sudden jerk (usually symmetric) of the muscles in the upper limbs and body.

The network of nerve cells and nerve fibres that conveys sensations to the brain and motor impulses to organs and muscles.

Growth and development of the brain or central nervous system.

The branch of physiology that studies how the nervous system functions.

Neurons are cells within the nervous system in the brain that transmit nerve impulses.

A type of reflex epilepsy where light, particularly flashing lights (e.g. strobes) or patterns (e.g. geometric) may cause seizures. Only a small percentage of people with epilepsy are photosensitive.

The branch of biology that deals with the internal workings of living things, including functions such as metabolism, respiration, and reproduction, rather than with their shape or structure.

A PET scan is a nuclear imaging test which shows the metabolic activities (energy usage) of a person’s brain. Like a SPECT scan, the person is injected with a safe, short-lived radioactive substance into the bloodstream. Once it has been absorbed, a CT scan is performed soon afterwards.

A forewarning symptom indicating the onset of a disease, often before more diagnostically specific signs and symptoms develop.

Seizures that are psychological in their origin, but this is not to say that they are brought on consciously or deliberately. Video EEG monitoring is of assistance in identifying seizures of this kind.

The period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and can be capable of reproduction.

When seizures are triggered by sensory stimuli (as is the case with photosensitive epilepsy).

A temporary sudden change in the electrical and chemical activity in the brain which causes a change in behaviour, thought or sensation.

Continuous seizures occurring one after the other over a short period of time. There is a recovery period between each seizure, however the pattern and timing does not follow normal seizure activity.

A SPECT scan is a nuclear radiology study that measures blood flow in the brain. A safe, short-lived radioactive substance is injected into the arm of a person while they are having a seizure and a CT scan is performed soon afterwards. A SPECT scan is only conducted during admission to an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in a hospital, and is performed by specially trained healthcare staff, such as nurses.

A very long seizure (more than 5 minutes) or a continuous state of seizures where one seizure follows another. This can occur in almost any seizure type and is considered a medical emergency. Convulsive status epilepticus is where the person is experiencing ongoing tonic-clonic seizures. Non-convulsive status epilepticus does not involve toni-clonic seizure activity.

If a person with epilepsy dies suddenly and no obvious cause can be found after a post mortem examination, it is called SUDEP. The actual cause of SUDEP is not known.

A group of symptoms (e.g. physical, emotional, behavioural and/or cognitive symptoms) associated with a specific condition.

Term for epilepsy arising in the temporal lobe of the brain.

A generalised seizure also sometimes referred to as a ‘drop attack’. There is stiffening without jerking that may cause falling.

A generalised seizure in which the person falls, loses consciousness, stiffens and the body jerks.

A particular characteristic of an organism, not just humans, passed down from a parent to a child.

Factors and events that cause or increase the likelihood of seizure activity (e.g. high temperature, stress).

This refers to the use of personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, when there is a likelihood of coming into contact with body fluids and/or skin tissue) when someone is administering first aid.

This refers to the memory of words and other concepts involving language.

This refers to the ability to recall visual information that has been seen (e.g. objects, places, animals or people).

This refers to the thought processes that involve visual and spatial awareness.
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