What are the Symptoms of Absence Seizures or Petit Mal Seizure

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 23, 2018
Quick Bites

  • A vacant stare is the most common sign of absence seizure.
  • It can often be mistaken for a lapse of attention.
  • These seizures may last for 10-15 seconds generally.
  • Sufferers may not remember the incident afterwards.

Absence seizures, more common in children than in adults are characterised by brief, sudden unconsciousness and may make the person look like staring into space for a few seconds. Usually, no physical injury results from these seizures.

Doctors prescribe anti-seizure medications to control absence seizures. Children with absence seizures may also develop other types of seizures, however, many children outgrow absence seizures as they reach teen-age.

Symptoms of Absence Seizures

A vacant stare is the most common sign of absence seizure. These stares can often be mistaken for a lapse of attention that lasts 10 to 15 seconds. This may not be accompanied by any subsequent confusion, headache or drowsiness. Other signs and symptoms of absence seizures are:

  • A sudden stop in motion without falling.
  • Lip smacking.
  • Eyelid flutters.
  • Chewing motions.
  • Finger rubbing.
  • Small movements of both hands.

These seizures may last for 10-15 seconds generally and an immediate full recovery follows them. People with absence seizures may not remember the incident afterwards; the frequency of these seizures may be up to a dozen episodes daily, which can interfere with routine activities.

The seizures are so brief that an adult may not notice it sooner in a child. The first indication of this disorder may be the child's impaired learning ability due to lapse in consciousness. Pay attention to your child's teacher commenting on his/her inability to pay attention.

When to See a Doctor

In case of noticing a seizure for the first time, or a new type of seizure, or if an anti-seizure medication is not suppressing it, you must contact your doctor. A seizure that lasts for more than five minutes should get immediate medical attention.

If you observe prolonged automatic behaviours — activities such as eating or moving without awareness — or prolonged confusion, possible symptoms of a condition called absence status epilepticus. This also calls for immediate attention.

Absence seizures are more common in children between the ages of 4 and 10; putting girls more at the risk of it. Nearly half of children with absence seizures have a close relative who has seizures.

Read more articles on Mental Health.

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