Early symptoms of absence seizures

The early symptoms of absence seizure may boil down to a decline in the learning abilities of a child. As a matter of fact, this may be the first sign that a parent or teacher notices, because the seizures are very brief (10-15 seconds). They usually occur in people younger than 20 years of age, generally between the ages of 6 and 12. Seizures are frequently characterized by staring episodes – a vacant stare that can be mistakenly construed as a lapse in attention.

Absence seizure symptoms


  • Occur several times a day.
  • Occur for weeks to months before being noticed.
  • Interfere with school and learning.
  • Mistaken for lack of attention or other misbehavior.
  • Changes in muscle activity (no movement, hand fumbling, fluttering eyelids, lip smacking, chewing).


·         The person may stop walking and start again a couple of seconds later.

·         The person may stop talking in the middle of a sentence and start again a couple of seconds later.


·         The person usually is wide awake, thinking clearly, and oblivious to the seizure.

·         There is no subsequent confusion, headache, or drowsiness.


Absence seizures are momentary disturbances of brain function caused to anomalous electrical activity. During a seizure, the electric signals that the brain normally sends across the synapses that connect its nerve cells are repeated over and over in a 3-second pattern. An underlying cause for absence seizures is seldom found. Hyperventilation can trigger a seizure; flashing lights can too.

Risk factors for absence seizures include the following:

·         Young age.

·         Gender (absence seizures are more common in girls).

·         Personal history of febrile seizures.

·         Family history of seizures.

More often than not, children cease to experience absence seizures as they grow, but there is nonetheless the possibility of complications such as:

·         Having seizures throughout life.

·         Eventually having full convulsions.

·         Learning difficulties.

·         Behavioral problems.

·         Social withdrawal.

In addition to a physical exam and blood tests, a doctor may perform one or both of these tests:

Diagnosing absence seizures


The doctor may attempt to provoke a seizure by asking the child to breathe rapidly or look at blinking lights. EEG patterns are different than normal during a seizure.

Brain scans

Imaging tests can created detailed images of the brain that can help discard other conditions.


Once a doctor established a diagnosis of absence seizures, he or she may prescribe of these medications:

·         Ethosuximide (Zarontin).

·         Valproic acid (Depakene).

·         Lamotrigine (Lamictal).

The physician may also recommend lifestyle changes concerning activity and diet. Surgery is another option. Additionally, the person would do well to wear a medical ID bracelet so that teachers, coaches and child care workers know about the seizures.

Related: Early symptoms of epilepsy