Are you concerned about your child’s frequent ‘daydreaming’ episodes at school? Has your child begun to suffer from twitching movements that last a few seconds? If you said yes, your child may be suffering from absence seizures. What are absence seizures in children? Why do they occur? Read our post and learn all about the condition here.
What Are Absence Seizures?
Absence seizures are episodes of sudden consciousness loss with characteristic ‘vacant’ stare spells, which may last for 10-20 seconds. These are more common in children than adults. Usually, children who suffer from absence seizures stop having any seizure episodes during their teen years. But it can last well into their adulthood.
Absence seizures usually begin with children in the ages between 4 to 12 years. Children with absence seizures may also suffer from other seizures, which may involve muscle twitching and weakening of muscles. Absence seizures are also known as petit mal seizures. 
Some Facts about Absence Seizures:
- Females are more susceptible to absence seizures even though males are at a greater risk of all other seizures.
- Children who suffer from febrile seizures (seizures due to fever) are at a higher risk of developing absence seizures.
- Children most often get seizures when they are bored or not engaged in activities they find enjoyable. Rarely children engaged in fun activities suffer from absence seizures episodes.
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What Causes Absence Seizures In Children:
Experts believe that absence seizures occur due to abnormalities in the brain’s electrical processes. These irregularities change the electric nerve transmissions and it leads to a repetition of the signals. Absence seizures episodes can also occur due to hyperventilation (fast breathing) or flashing lights.
The basis of absence seizures is hereditary. Most children with absence seizures usually have a family history of the same type of seizure. Children who have siblings with absence seizures have greater chances of developing the condition as well. 
Symptoms Of Absence Seizures In Children:
The most common identification sign of absence seizure is the ‘vacant’ stare. Children who suffer from absence seizures may appear to be daydreaming or simply staring into nothingness. Other symptoms include:
- Children who suffer from absence seizure episodes stop doing any activity they might have been engaged in when the seizures appear.
- Children who suffer from absence seizure episodes resume these activities again without any knowledge of their seizures.
- Fluttering of the eyelids.
- Chewing-like movements
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Types Of Absence Seizures In Children:
There are two categories of absence seizures or petit mal seizures in children. 
- Typical Absence Seizures:
Symptoms of typical absence seizures are fumbling hands, fluttering eyelids and staring spells lasting for about 10 to 20 seconds. For now, the only cause of typical seizures is genetics.
- Atypical Absence Seizures:
The main difference between the two is that atypical seizures last longer than typical ones. Atypical seizures may also include a confused state after the cessation of the seizures. Atypical seizures begin slowly and not as suddenly as typical seizures. Other than hereditary reasons, atypical seizures may also occur due to injuries or from health complications arising from kidney or liver problems.
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Diagnosing Absence Seizures In Children:
The symptoms of the seizures give a fair indication of the existence of absence seizures. To confirm the diagnosis doctors may use one or all of the following methods. 
- Electroencephalography (EEG):
For typical seizures, an EEG is adequate for diagnosing the problem. For an accurate diagnosis, doctors may ask patients to breath rapidly to induce absence seizures. The EEG can capture the differences in brain scans as they stand during seizures and in the absence of seizures.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
In rare cases, the doctors may also go for brain scans using MRI if they need more details about the neuron activities. Brain scans may also help doctors to look for other problems such as strokes or tumors that may also cause seizures.
Depending on the condition of the patient or the symptoms of the seizures, doctors may also conduct blood tests and check the state of the cerebrospinal fluid, liver or kidneys.
Treating Absence Seizures In Children:
The treatment for absence seizures must occur under a doctor’s supervision. If your child hasn’t had a single episode of absence seizures for two years after the start of the treatment, the doctor may gradually reduce the dosage and eventually stop the medicines altogether. Most patients with absence seizures also suffer from other types of seizures. Therefore, the treatment plan for seizures includes one or many drugs used to control and treat the conditions.
Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors usually prescribe the following drugs.
- Ethosuximide: It is the most common drug for the treatment of absence seizures.
- Valproic Acid: You can use it for children in some cases.
- Others: Lamotrigine is not as effective for seizure treatments, but doctors consider the drug as it has fewer side effects. Acetazolamide, Clonazepam, Acetazolamide, and Epilim are other drugs that promote the treatment of absence seizure.
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Managing Absence Seizures in Children:
Most children with absence seizures recover from the condition as they get old. But they have greater chances of developing other types of seizures. About 10 percent of children with absence seizures may also suffer from other types of seizures in their adolescent years.
Therefore, it is important for parents to help children manage their symptoms well. Some kids with absence seizures may develop behavioral problems, learning difficulties and an inclination for social aloofness.
- Always pay attention to complaints from your child’s teachers at school that pertain to ‘daydreaming’ or ‘often lost in thoughts’. He may be suffering from absence seizure episodes. Prompt diagnosis of the condition is often the first step in helping him manage the seizure spells.
- Talk to the teachers and counselors at his school to help them understand the condition and any action steps they can take for future seizure episode he may suffer from during the school hours.
- Lifestyle changes such as adequate sleep, fun physical activities, a healthy diet and a stress-free environment at home also help manage petit mal seizure in children.
Absence seizures may complicate a child’s life due to the sudden appearance of symptoms and the prolonged treatment plans. But with lifestyle changes and medicines, it is possible to manage the condition.
Does your child suffer from absence seizures? How do you help him manage the condition? Please share your experiences with us here.
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