Absence Seizures

Absence seizures, also called petit mal seizures, are sudden yet brief losses of consciousness that do not cause any sort of lethargy afterwards. They may be triggered by hyperventilation, and are sometimes mistaken for daydreaming. More common in children than adults, about 70% grow out of childhood absence seizures  by the time they are teenagers, if they are otherwise healthy individuals.

The two types of absence seizures are:

  • Simple absence seizures, which are almost unnoticeable or appear mild, like someone staring blankly for less than 10 seconds.
  • Complex absence seizures, during which the person not only seems to be daydreaming, but also blinks, chews, moves absently, or stops moving altogether for up to 20 seconds.

In both cases, absence seizures can happen anywhere from a few times a day to hundreds. At their most severe, they can interfere with one’s life by hampering their ability to maintain their attention and focus.  Academic performance and social functioning may be affected. Medication treatments may be highly effective at controlling these attacks, and evaluation by a neurologist is recommended.

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