Absence Seizures

Absence seizures, also known as petit mal seizures, are a type of seizure disorder that is most commonly seen in children between the ages of 4 and 14 years. These seizures are characterized by a sudden, brief loss of consciousness, which can occur multiple times a day.


Absence seizures are thought to be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Specifically, they are believed to be caused by an abnormality in the thalamocortical network, which is responsible for relaying sensory and motor information to and from the cortex. During an absence seizure, there is a sudden, synchronous burst of electrical activity in this network, which results in the temporary loss of consciousness.

Signs and Symptoms:

The most common signs and symptoms of absence seizures include:

Sudden, brief loss of consciousness
Staring blankly
Lip smacking, chewing, or other repetitive movements
Unresponsiveness to stimuli
No memory of the seizure
These seizures typically last only a few seconds and are not usually associated with convulsions or loss of muscle tone.


If a person is suspected of having absence seizures, their doctor may recommend an electroencephalogram (EEG) to look for abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In addition, other tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans, may be done to rule out other causes of the seizures.


The primary treatment for absence seizures is medication, which can help to control the abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The most commonly used medications for absence seizures include:

Valproic acid
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may also be recommended, such as getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and managing stress.

Advice (Dos and Don’ts):

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with absence seizures, there are several dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


Take medication as prescribed by the doctor
Get enough sleep
Stay hydrated
Wear a medical alert bracelet
Keep a seizure diary to track seizures and their triggers

Drive until your doctor has cleared you to do so
Use heavy machinery or equipment
Swim or bathe unsupervised
Use alcohol or drugs without consulting your doctor
Stop taking medication without consulting your doctor


Fisher RS, Cross JH, French JA, Higurashi N, Hirsch E, Jansen FE, Lagae L, Moshé SL, Peltola J, Roulet Perez E, Scheffer IE, Zuberi SM. Operational classification of seizure types by the International League Against Epilepsy: Position Paper of the ILAE Commission for Classification and Terminology. Epilepsia. 2017 Apr;58(4):522-530. doi: 10.1111/epi.13670. Epub 2017 Mar 8. PMID: 28276060.
Absence Seizures. (2021, October 12). Retrieved February 27, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/absence-seizures/symptoms-causes/syc-20369407

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