Absence Seizures A Different Kind Of Seizure

Otherwise known as petit mal, absence seizure often appears like a brief lapse in conscious activity. During an episode, the person experiencing the seizure seems like staring into space for a few seconds.


Absence seizure occurs most commonly among children although teenage and adult patients may also exhibit symptoms associated with this condition. In general, however, this seizure is age-related. Children are most susceptible to electrical discharges in the brain because there are more synapses or gaps between nerve cells in developing brains. This explains the fact that children tend to outgrow this condition once they reach the stage when their brains become fully developed.

Onset usually begins early, during the prenatal, perinatal or postnatal stages, and is predominantly experienced by children age 4 to 8 years old, with symptoms peaking at ages 6 to 7. Symptoms, however, rarely appear before age 1.

In the United States, absence seizure occurs in around 2 in every 100,000 people.

Signs and Symptoms

Absence seizure is relatively shorter than advance cases of seizures like tonic-clonic seizure. This only lasts for a few seconds and is not accompanied with violent convulsions typically associated with epileptic seizures, although twitching movements of the muscles of the eyes are quite common.

Common symptoms of absence seizure include staring into space without any unusual movements which may appear like the patient is presently 'disconnected', smacking of the lips, chewing motions, fluttering of the eyelids, small hand movements.

Some attacks of absence seizures can be so brief, they are barely noticeable. These types, which are often perceived as daydreaming, can happen several times in a day to up to a hundred times, depending on the severity of the condition. There are also attacks that can last for up to several seconds.

The hallmark of an absence seizure is the loss of consciousness. As such, patients normally do not have any memory of the seizure and are most likely to go back where they have left off prior to the attack of seizure. A few of them may feel confused after recovering but most exhibit no unusual behavior.

Absence seizure is comparably less dangerous and violent than more severe cases of seizure. However, this still poses risks to their safety. A more significant effect of the condition to the patient is a significant decline in performance. Children with this condition often perform poorly at school because of their lapses in concentration.


Most absence seizures are idiopathic, meaning there is no identifiable cause to their occurrence. It is clear in clinical studies, though, that children with this condition have family history of epilepsy. The majority of these children have genetic predisposition to develop abnormalities in the electrical activities of the brain.

Hyperventilation is one of the few known triggers of absence seizure. Altered levels of neurotransmitters, a chemical in the brain that facilitates communication between neurons, are also known to kick in the symptoms of this condition.


Although it is possible to outgrow absence seizure, there are patients who continue to exhibit symptoms well into adulthood. In not a few cases, the symptoms develop into tonic-clinic seizures and other more severe types of seizure.

Other Seizure Treatments and Your Life Articles

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Understanding The Stages Of A Seizure
Partial Seizures And Their Signs And Symptoms
Symptoms Of Seizure
Seizure And Its Long-Term Effects
Absence Seizures A Different Kind Of Seizure
Complications Of Seizure
Types And Symptoms Of Partial Seizures
Seizures In Children
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