Absence seizures are a type of seizure that results in staring off into space, similar to daydreaming. The lapse in awareness is considered a generalized onset seizure and can go months without being recognized as a medical condition. Most absence seizures come on quickly and do not last for more than twenty seconds; however, they are common in children and can be worrisome for concerned parents. Here are ten crucial facts to know about absence seizures.
An absence seizure, also called a petit mal seizure, is characterized by a short period of “spacing out” staring into space. It is caused by brief abnormal electrical activity in a person’s brain. An absence seizure can occur on both sides of the brain at the same time, which is known as a generalized onset seizure. It usually only affects a person’s awareness of their present conditions and ends on its own with immediate recovery.
There are two main types of absence seizures: typical and atypical absence seizures. Both types are short in duration and may be mistaken for daydreaming. Typical seizures are more common than atypical. They occur when a person suddenly ceases their activity and stares off into space. They may have a blank expression, and their eyes may turn upwards. They do not last more than ten seconds. Atypical seizures last up to twenty seconds and are characterized by a change in movement and muscle tone, such as smacking the lips, chewing, and repeated blinking.
8. Risk Factors
Although children from the age of four to fourteen years old are most at risk for developing absence seizures, teenagers and adults may also develop the condition at any time. It often goes unnoticed for months. A person with an absence seizure might be mistaken for a constant daydreamer or someone who does not pay attention. A child who is having trouble in school or does not appear to be paying attention might be a candidate of the condition.
7. What Happens During An Absence Seizure?
Most people who have an absence seizure are not aware of their surroundings or what is going on with them. An individual who has a seizure in the middle of a conversation may not be aware anyone is talking to them. When the seizure begins, they will stop speaking and pause as if they are observing. Children are known to have a few seizures in a row. An observer of the seizure might not know that the person is having one. They may think the person they are holding a conversation with is confused or not paying attention.
6. What To Expect After The Seizure
An absence seizure does not last more than twenty seconds long unless several seizures in a row take place. When it ends, a person will continue doing what they were doing before the seizure occurred as if nothing happened. They can think clearly and are wide awake afterward. There is no need for first aid after a seizure has occurred. Children who have seizures in school may miss instructions and may not be aware of what happened; therefore, they may need to be instructed again or allowed more time to finish a project.
The number of seizures a person can have may vary on the individual. Patients with advanced cases may have up to a few hundred seizures a day while others only experience them occasionally. Patients who are on seizure medications may no longer experience seizures or have a minuscule amount compared to what they had before treatment. A medical professional can help a patient understand the frequency of their seizures as well as come up with treatment options for reducing the amount.
Only a medical professional can diagnosis an absence seizure. He or she will ask for a written description of what happens during the seizure from a teacher, parent or another family member. A doctor will then perform an electroencephalogram or an EEG to determine if there are abnormalities with the patient’s electrical activity in the brain. During the procedure, a patient will be asked to breathe rapidly or close their eyes while lights are flashed. This may make it easier to determine seizure patterns on an EEG.
A neurologist should be consulted to discuss treatment options for absence seizures. Certain medications are available to prevent or reduce the frequency of seizures. The most commonly used drugs for children include lamotrigine, ethosuximide, valproic acid, and divalproex sodium. Most children will outgrow their seizures by the time they are eighteen years old. When this occurs, medications will not be needed into adulthood. Research shows that children who experience absence seizures before the age of nine are most likely to outgrow them.
2. Childhood Absence Seizures
Parents who think their child may suffer from absence seizures should talk to their doctor immediately to rule out other types of seizures. Although children who have absence seizures are not usually in danger, they may experience trouble in school, behavioral problems, or social fears. An epilepsy specialist is called an epileptologist. He or she can determine the proper treatment for absence seizure patients.
1. The Difference Between A Seizure And Daydreaming
There are a few key differences between an absence seizure and daydreaming. Daydreaming usually comes on slowly and is more likely to happen when a child is bored such as during school hours. A child who is daydreaming can be interrupted and tends to continue until something interferes. A seizure can occur anytime including during physical activity and tends to come on very suddenly. It cannot be interrupted and ends on its own typically between ten and twenty seconds.