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Patients with generalized epilepsy have generalized seizure types, and may have typical interictal and/or ictal EEG findings that accompany generalized seizure types (for example generalized spike and wave). A family history of generalized seizure types or generalized epilepsy is supportive.

NOTE A genetic/idiopathic generalized epilepsy is an epilepsy with generalized seizures associated with generalized epileptiform EEG patterns, such as generalized spike wave activity, that is understood to have a genetic etiology. However, this does not always mean that these epilepsies are inherited or can be transmitted to offspring, as the genetic etiology may be a spontaneous new mutation, or the inheritance may be complex. The term idiopathic generalized epilepsy is therefore used synonymously with genetic generalized epilepsy, and a clinician may chose which term to use, depending on the importance of emphasis on genetic inheritance for a particular patient. Genetic/idiopathic generalized epilepsies include childhood absence epilepsy, juvenile absence epilepsy, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures alone.

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