SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Signs of absence seizures include:
- Vacant stare
- Absence of motion without falling
- Lip smacking
- Eyelid flutters
- Chewing motions
- Hand movements
- Small movements of both arms
Absence seizures last only a few seconds. Full recovery is almost instantaneous. Afterward, there's no confusion, but also no memory of the incident. Some people experience dozens of these episodes each day, which interferes with their performance at school or work.
Children who are walking or doing other complex tasks during a seizure probably won't fall, though they'll be unaware.
Absence seizures in a child may occur for some time before an adult notices them, because they're so brief. A noticeable decline in a child's learning ability may be the first sign of this disorder. Teachers may comment about a child's inability to pay attention.
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor:
- The first time you notice a seizure
- If you have a new type of seizure
Seek immediate medical attention:
- If you observe prolonged automatic behaviors — activities such as eating or moving without awareness — or prolonged confusion, possible symptoms of a condition called absence status epilepticus
- After any seizure lasting more than five minutes
- Absence seizures (also called petit mal). The Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/types/types/seizureabsence.cfm?renderforprint=1&. Accessed March 23, 2011.
- FDA: Aseptic meningitis risk with use of seizure drug Lamactil. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm222212.htm. Accessed March 23, 2011.
- Hughes JR. Absence seizures: A review of recent reports with new concepts. Epilepsy & Behavior. 2009;15:404.
- Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm?css=print. Accessed March 22, 2011.
- Practice parameter update: Management issues for women with epilepsy - Focus on pregnancy (an evidence-based review): Teratogenesis and perinatal outcomes. Neurology. 2009;73:133.
- Seizure disorders. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec16/ch214/ch214a.html. March 22, 2011.
- Schachter SC. Evaluation of the first seizure in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index/home.html. Accessed March 22, 2011.
- Stafstrom CE, et al. Pathophysiology of seizures and epilepsy. http://www.uptodate.com/index/home.html. Accessed March 22, 2011.