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glossary - p

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Paediatrician – a doctor who specialises in medical conditions affecting children. Children with epilepsy will usually see a paediatrician up to the age of 16 – 18years, and will then be referred to a neurologist.

Parallel imports – a drug either made outside the UK and imported back, or made in the UK, exported abroad and then brought back to the UK. This is legal between European Union countries. Parallel imports can cause some problems: the PIL might not be in English, the packaging may look different, and the way the drug is made, packaged and stored may be different which could affect how it works.

Paraesthesiae – the medical term for the feeling of pins and needles. This can be a type of simple focal seizure or the side effect of some AEDs, but it can also happen for other reasons not connected to epilepsy.

Parietal lobes – the area of the brain at the top of your head behind your frontal lobes. The parietal lobes control how we feel and understand sensations. They also control how we judge spatial relationships (such as the distance between two objects), our coordination and our ability to read, write and do maths.

Parietal lobe seizures – focal seizures that start in the parietal lobe. Simple focal seizures from the parietal lobe include feeling numb or tingling in part of the body, a burning sensation or feeling of heat, or feeling that parts of the body are bigger or smaller than they really are. Complex focal seizures from this area are rare.

Partial seizures – another name for 'focal seizures'. There are seizures that happen in, and affect, only part of the brain (not both sides of the brain) and start from a 'focal point' in the brain. What happens in these seizures varies depending on which part of the brain is affected and what that part of the brain normally does.

Paroxysm – a sudden, short-lived event such as a convulsion or spasm. Sometimes epileptic seizures are called ‘paroxysmal events’.

Patent  – this is the legal right a drug company has to be the only company to make the drug they have developed. Patents usually last 20 years and during this time no other company can make the drug.

Patient information leaflet (PIL) – the leaflet that comes with every prescription of medication. It says what the medication is, what it is for and how to take it. The PIL also includes details of what side effects to look out for and what to do if you are ill or forget to take the medication. Many drug companies have medical or patient information lines that you can call if you are taking their medication and you have any questions. This phone number is usually listed on the PIL.

Peripheral nervous system  – the nerves in the body, other than the brain and spine.

Period - the shedding of the lining of the womb, which comes out with monthly bleeding (see menstrual cycle).

PET (Positron emission tomography) – a type of scan or way of imaging the body using radiation. PET might be used if a person is being considered for epilepsy surgery.

Petit mal – an old term used for absence seizures. It means ‘little illness’ and does not describe what happens during the seizure: we tend not to use this term anymore.

Photosensitive epilepsy – when seizures are triggered by certain frequencies of flashing or flickering lights, or by moving patterns and shapes. Only about five percent (5 in 100) of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy, and it is more common in children. Photosensitive epilepsy usually triggers tonic clonic seizures and it often responds well to treatment.

Placebo  – these are ‘dummy’ drugs that have no active ingredient in them. They are used as controls in drug trials – used to compare the effects of the real drug.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – a common hormonal condition when eggs from a woman’s ovaries do not develop properly and stay in the ovaries to form non-harmful cysts. PCOS is more common in women with epilepsy than women without epilepsy, and can cause acne, weight gain and hirsutism.

Polytherapy – when more than one medication is taken. See monotherapy.

Post-ictal – after a seizure. This word is often used when describing how someone feels or behaves after their seizure ends: a post-ictal state where the person may be very confused, tired or want to sleep.

Pre-ictal – the period of time before a seizure.

Progesterone - one of the female hormones that bring about sexual development, menstruation and pregnancy.

Progestogen - a man-made hormone similar to the natural hormone progesterone.

Prophylactic – something that is taken to stop something happening. For example, AEDs are prophylactic and are taken to try and stop seizures from happening (rather than using them to treat a seizure once it starts).

Protocol – a written list of instructions about how to carry out a particular task. For example, if someone has buccal midazolam or rectal diazepam for status epilepticus, it is important that there is a protocol for when and how to give it.

Psychiatrist – a medically trained doctor who specialises in mental health problems. Psychiatrists are medically qualified and can prescribe medications.

Psychologist – someone who studies the way the mind works and how people behave. Clinical psychologists are trained to help people manage mental health and social problems and they cannot prescribe medications.

Puberty - when a boy or girl starts to become sexually mature, due to the activity of sex hormones. As puberty starts, a girl's periods start and she can become pregnant.