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American Family Children's Hospital

Primary Generalized Epilepsy (Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy)

UW Health's comprehensive epilepsy program at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin, offers state-of-the-art care for patients with epilepsy or those suspected of having seizures.


About Primary Generalized Epilepsy

  • Primary generalized epilepsy (PGE) cannot be attributed to an underlying condition. Whereas many epilepsy seizures can be traced back to a stroke, brain tumor or other disorder, primary generalized epilepsy cannot.
  • Primary generalized epilepsy is often assumed to be caused by a genetic condition, but that genetic condition is not known.
  • A family history of epilepsy may be evident but does not have to be.
  • EEG results may indicate that seizures start "all over" the brain.
  • Nearly all instances of PGE begin in childhood, with seizures beginning before age 10.

Types of Primary Generalized Epilepsy Syndromes

  • Childhood absence epilepsy
  • Jeavon’s syndrome
  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
  • Juvenile absence epilepsy
  • Epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures on awakening
  • Generalized epilepsies with febrile seizures plus

Types of Primary Generalized Epilepsy Seizures

  • Myoclonic: Limbs or the whole body experience "jerks" during the daytime, when the patient is awake.
  • Absence: Brief staring spells that last three to five seconds.
  • Eyelid myoclonia with absences: Absence seizures with eye rolling and fluttering.
  • Myoclonic atonic seizures: Brief jerks while the patients is standing that may result from lack of muscle tone.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures

Treating Primary Generalized Epilepsy

  • Many patients with childhood absence epilepsy outgrow their seizures, meaning they do not require medication after seizures stop.
  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is considered a lifetime condition and most patients need medication to prevent seizures.