Absence seizures are most common in children.  Between the ages of four and fourteen.  Absence seizures account for 10% of all childhood epilepsies and seizures.  They are a type of epilepsy.  These seizures can cause your child to blank out, stare into space, and immediately stop what they were doing.  Rarely does this form of seizure cause convulsions or falling down. 

Absence seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity.  They usually last less than 15 seconds.  A child can have 10, 50, or even 100 absence seizures in a single day.  This can cause them to have trouble in school, or paying attention.  About 75% of children will grow out of absence seizures by their teen years.  You can have absence seizures along with other types of seizures.  In some cases of children who don’t grow out of absence seizures, may develop more intense seizures that have full convulsions.  


Symptoms & Triggers

Absence seizures occur all of sudden usually without any warning.  Your child will not have any headache, confusion, or drowsiness following an absence seizure.  Usually afterward the seizure is over, your child will pick right back up where they left off.  Most of the time your child will be unaware of the seizure at all.  Absence seizures only last for a few seconds.  If your child has seizures close together, they may notice the time they missed during the seizure, which could be someone telling them instructions, or a change of activity at school. 

Symptoms of an absence seizure are your child suddenly stopping in an activity without falling over, lip smacking, eyelid flutters, chewing motions, finger rubbing, or small movements with both hands.  Your child may have a blank stare as if they are looking off into space.  It can be mistaken for day dreaming or not paying attention.  In some cases absence seizures can take a long time to catch because they are so quick and sudden. 

Triggers of absence seizures are very similar to triggers of other seizures.  Lack of sleep, not taking medication, stress, worry, excitement, breathing heavily, sounds, flashing lights, or bright sunlight. 



If absence seizures are suspected your doctor will most likely want to do an EEG.  This is a test that records the brain’s electrical activity.  It will be able to pick up any abnormal brain activity which would be the cause of the seizures.  Absence seizures can be tricky to catch because they happen so suddenly, and don’t look like a seizure with convulsions.  Breathing heavily, or hyperventilating is a trigger for seizures.  When your child has the EEG on, your doctor may have your child blow into a tube repeatedly quickly to try to trigger a seizure. 

Your doctor may want to do some further testing to rule out any other conditions or causes for the seizures.  These tests could include a blood test, kidney and liver function test, CT, MRI, or a spinal tap to test cerebrospinal fluid.  



Most of the time absence seizures can be treated with anti seizure medications.  It is also important for your child to get good quality sleep every night.  Make sure they are learning ways to manage stress.  Exercising regularly is also important.  Eating a balanced and healthy diet.  In some cases a doctor may suggest your child follow a ketogenic diet.  Ketogenic diets are high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates.  If your doctor suggests this, it may be beneficial to meet with a dietitian to make sure you child is getting all the needed nutrients.  



Most children respond to medication.  About 75% of children with absence seizures will grow out of them before their teenage years.  If your child has absence seizures make sure they do not swim, dive, or rock climb unsupervised.  If your child is 16 and driving, if their seizures are not controlled by medication they should not drive.  Certain states have different rules about driving with seizures to make sure you know your state’s policies. 

It can be hard to catch since it may look like your child is just daydreaming, but absence seizures cannot be interrupted, they happen suddenly, and your child will stop what they are doing even during physical activities.  




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