Absence Epilepsy – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Absence Epilepsy is characterized by the occurrence of absence seizures which are also known as petit mal seizures. This type of epilepsy is most commonly seen in children as compared to adults. In this form of epilepsy, the child may suffer from recurrent absence seizures during which they have a sudden and brief lapses of consciousness.

It appears as though the child is staring into space for a few seconds, he or she looks lost and then suddenly regains consciousness and continues to do the work that they were doing. Some children develop several such attacks during the entire day, and each attack may last for a few seconds, rarely for a few minutes. Most children outgrow absence seizures by the time they enter their teenage years. In few others however this form of epilepsy may continue through teenage and early adolescent years and rarely all through life.

Symptoms of absence epilepsy:

During each seizure the child may show some of the following signs:

  • Child may have a vacant stare; just stare into space without knowledge of the events occurring around them.
  • Children do not have falls with any seizure episode, but appear completely motionless during an attack.
  • Some children develop lip smacking, chewing motions and movements of their hands.
  • Some develop fluttering of their eyelid and some movements of both their arms.

These marks last for a few seconds, following which the child regains consciousness and has recovered completely. The child does not develop any form of confusion. They do not have any memory of the incident. Here if a parent or a teacher inquires about the incident, the child is not able to explain any abnormal phenomenon. In fact if nobody notices the signs during the attack, absence epilepsy goes completely unnoticed.

If a child experiences several such attacks during a day, his or her academic performance may be at stake. Such children are unable to concentrate and pay attention in class and as a result of this there can a consider declination in the child's performance in school.

Causes of Absence Epilepsy:

So far, no cause has been found for absence seizures. However it may run in families. Seizures are caused due to abnormal activity of the brain cells. Any abnormality in the production, discharge or provision of nerve impulses in the brain causes seizures. However the cause for abnormal production of electrical signals in the brain of a child suffering from absence epilepsy is unknown.

Treatment of Absence Epilepsy:

If you have noticed any of the symptoms of absence epilepsy in your child, you must consult your doctor at the earliest. To begin with your doctor may advice your child certain tests like blood tests, EEG or MRI of the brain. These tests are essential to rule out any organic problem as a cause for seizures.

There are several medications available for decreasing the frequency and controlling the absence seizures like Ethosuximide, Valproic acid and Lamotrigine. The doctor may start your child on one of these medications. You must remember to administer these medications regularly to your child, as it is essential to maintain adequate drug levels in the blood.

Please consult your doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment of absence epilepsy.