• Types of Seizures

      • Infantile Spasms/West’s Syndrome:
        These are found in some epileptic infants less than a year old. The spasms may occur as single events or in clusters – each spasm lasting a very brief time (1-3 seconds). The infant often has an appearance of nodding – as if they are flexing and extending back and forth at the head or waist (often called Salaam convulsions/attacks). Infantile spasms occur when the infant is sleeping, drowsy, or upon wakening. The infant may give a cry out loud after the spasm which may often be mistaken for Colic.

        There are two groups of infantile spasms: cryptogenic (no known cause) and symptomatic (known cause). For the cases of symptomatic infantile spasms, there are many different causes.

        Infantile spasms are often observed in children with West’s Syndrome. Note: although infantile spasms and West’s syndrome are often used interchangeably, not all infantile spasms are related to West’s syndrome. West’s syndrome was first described in 1841 by an English physician who observed symptoms of infantile spasms in his own son. This is related to a more specific type of infantile spasms.

        Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome:
        Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome affects children between the ages of 1 to 8, with predominance in male children. It is characterized by frequent, often violent seizures. Some of the seizure types associated with this syndrome are: tonic, atonic, atypical absence, myoclonic, and status epilepticus. Status epilepticus has been observed in approximately 50% of children with Lennox-Gastaut.

        Like West’s Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is divided into two types, cryptogenic and symptomatic. Cryptogenic cases (around 30%) usually appear to have no brain defect. Symptomatic cases make up the remaining 70% in which there appears to be some underlying brain damage.

        The causes of this syndrome are varied. Possible causes include brain injury or malformation, brain infection, genetics, and many other unknown influences (especially in cryptogenic cases). Many children with Lennox-Gastaut experience developmental delay as well as many behavioural problems as a result.

        To date, there is no known cure for Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. These children are often found to have a higher frequency of drug resistance than unaffected epileptic children. They are often placed on a polytherapy of drugs. The Ketogenic Diet is often recommended for children with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome as a way to control their epileptic seizures in addition to the prescribed medication.

        Other Epilepsy Syndromes:

        Febrile Spasms
        Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME)
        Benign Rolandic Epilepsy (BRE)


        There are many more types of seizures (epileptic and non-epileptic) than are listed above. We have described the most common types.


        The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) was formed in 1909. Their goal is:

        • To advance and disseminate knowledge about epilepsy
        • To promote research, education and training
        • To improve services and care for patients, especially by prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

        For additional information: you can read through Epilepsy Canada’s brochure on Seizures and First Aid

    • Epilepsy Canada

      2900 John Street, Suite 2B Tel: 1-877-734-0873
      Markham, ON, L3R 5G3 Fax: 905-752-2298

      Charity Registration Number : 13117 6042 RR0001

    • Glacier Digital Logo