Primary Generalized Epilepsy (PGE), also called Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy (IGE), refers to an epilepsy syndrome of idiopathic or unknown cause. An idiopathic disease is a “primary” or “intrinsic” disorder that cannot be attributed to a known underlying condition. So, while other types of epilepsy may be caused by a brain tumor, stroke, or other neurological disorder, idiopathic epilepsy is a primary brain disorder of unknown cause. In fact, most idiopathic epilepsy syndromes are presumed to be due to a genetic cause, but in most cases the specific genetic defect is not known and a family history of epilepsy may not be present.
There are a number of different PGE syndromes. Each syndrome has its own characteristic seizure type(s), typical age of onset, and specific EEG patterns. Some of these syndromes are:
PGE is a generalized type of epilepsy, which means there is no single part of the brain where seizures originate. In fact, EEG results may show epileptic discharges affecting the entire brain. The types of seizures patients with PGE exhibit may include:
The seizures in PGE usually respond well to medication. Some of the more commonly prescribed medications for these syndromes include: valproate, lamotrigine, topiramate, levetiracetam, and in Childhood Absence Epilepsy, ethosuximide.
Nearly all patients with PGE begin having seizures in childhood or adolescence. Most patients with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) start having seizures before age 10, and “outgrow” their seizures within a few years, meaning that they no longer need medication to control their seizures. On the other hand, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) is generally considered a life-long disease. Once seizures start, usually in adolescence, most patients need medication treatment for life to prevent seizure recurrence. People with PGE syndromes usually have normal development and intelligence.