West syndrome is a type of epilepsy characterized by spasms, abnormal brain wave patterns called hypsarrhythmia and sometimes mental retardation. The spasms that occur may range from violent jackknife or "salaam" movements where the whole body bends in half, or they may be no more than a mild twitching of the shoulder or eye changes. These spasms usually begin in the early months after birth and can sometimes be helped with medication. They can also occur rarely in older patients; if this happens, they are called "epileptic spasms" rather than infantile spasms. There are many different causes of West syndrome and if a specific cause can be identified, a diagnosis of symptomatic West syndrome can be made. If a cause cannot be determined, a diagnosis of cryptogenic West syndrome is made.