Absence seizures are a type of epilepsy. This is a condition that causes seizures.
Seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity. These mixed messages confuse your brain
and cause a seizure. An absence seizure causes you to blank out or stare into space for
a few seconds. They can also be called petit mal seizures. Absence seizures are most
common in children and usually don’t cause any long-term problems. These types of
seizures are often set off by a period of very fast breathing (hyperventilation).
Absence seizures usually occur in children between ages 4 and 14. A child may have 10,
50, or even 100 absence seizures in a given day, and you may not notice them. Most
children who have typical absence seizures are otherwise normal. But absence seizures
can get in the way of learning and affect concentration at school. This is why prompt
treatment is important.
everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Usually a diagnosis of epilepsy can be made
after 2 or more seizures.
Absence seizures often occur along with other types of seizures that cause muscle
jerking, twitching, and shaking. Absence seizures may be confused with other types of
seizures. Doctors will pay close attention to your symptoms to make the right diagnosis.
This is important for effective and safe treatment of your seizures.
uncommon for absence seizures to continue into adulthood. But it’s possible to have an
absence seizure at any age.
other kinds of seizures, absence seizures are caused by abnormal activity in a person’s
brain. Doctors often don’t know why this happens. Most absence seizures last less than
15 seconds. It’s rare for an absence seizure to last longer than 15 minutes. They can
happen suddenly without any warning signs. Some hereditary conditions may increase the
risk for absence seizures.
The easiest way to spot an absence seizure is to look for a blank stare that lasts for a few seconds. People in the midst of having an absence seizure don’t speak, listen, or appear to understand. An absence seizure doesn’t typically cause you to fall down. You could be in the middle of making dinner, walking across the room, or typing an e-mail when you have the seizure. Then suddenly you snap out of it and continue as you were before the seizure.
These are other possible symptoms of an absence seizure:
you have jerking motions, it may be a sign of another type of seizure taking place along
with the absence seizure.
may have absence seizures for years before seeing a doctor for a diagnosis. You may have
“staring spells” without thinking of them as a health problem or a seizure.
electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test most often used to diagnose absence seizures. This
test records the brain’s electrical activity. It spots any problems that might mean an
absence seizure. Sometimes the EEG is recorded over several days (long-term EEG). It may
include video at the same time.
These tests also can help to diagnose absence seizures or rule out other conditions:
Absence seizures can affect your ability to do your job or go to school, so it’s a good
idea to see your healthcare provider about treatment.
Absence seizures can be treated with a number of different medicines. The type of
medicine that your healthcare provider recommends will also depend on what other seizure
disorder you may have. If you have more than one type of seizure disorder, you may need
to take several medicines.
Taking your medicines exactly as your doctor prescribed is one of the best ways to manage absence seizures. But you can also make some changes in your life to help prevent absence seizures from happening. These include:
Most people with epilepsy live full and active lives with medicine and other lifestyle changes. But it can be challenging at times to manage large and small life events when you have epilepsy. Depending on your age and the severity and type of epilepsy, you may need support with the following:
If you have trouble managing your absence seizures, you may want to work more closely with your healthcare provider to find a better way to treat them.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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