What are Absence Seizures (Petit Mal Seizures)?
Nerve cells (neurons) in the brain connect by firing small electric messages. The firing pattern of these electromagnetic signals varies dramatically and suddenly during a seizure (convulsion). It becomes exceptionally intense and out of the ordinary.
A small portion of the brain might be affected by a seizure. It can also affect the whole brain. A generalized seizure occurs when the entire brain is affected.
The following are the two most common types of generalized seizures:
generalized seizures (grand mal seizures).
Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)
Both forms of generalized seizures cause a temporary loss of consciousness.
An absence seizure is characterized by a brief loss of consciousness lasting 30 seconds or less. It's scarcely noticeable, if it's noticeable at all. The person simply ceases to move or speak. He or she just stares blankly ahead and doesn't answer questions. The seizure is brief and unnoticeable. It is possible for a person to have 50 or 100 absence seizures per day without being noticed.
The person resumes normal activities when the absence seizure has ended. He or she is completely unaware of what has occurred.
If left untreated, epilepsy is a brain illness that results in recurring seizures. Childhood absence epilepsy, which is also called petit mal epilepsy, is when a child has a lot of seizures where they don't remember where they are when they wake up.
The onset of absence epilepsy can occur at any point during childhood. It usually begins between the ages of four and fifteen.
In the majority of cases, the cause of the seizures is unknown. The development of absence epilepsy may be influenced by genetic (inherited) factors.
A child is temporarily unaware of what is going on around him or her during an absence seizure. The child stops what he or she is doing for a few seconds. He or she looks straight ahead and does not respond when people speak to him or her.
A child's eyelids may blink or flicker rapidly during a seizure. Alternatively, an arm or leg may twitch, jerk, or move for no apparent reason.
The child has no recollection of the seizures after they have ended. He or she frequently picks up where they left off as if nothing had happened. After an absence seizure, there is usually little disorientation or recovery period.
During the school day, a child with absence epilepsy may experience several brief seizures. As a result, their ability to pay attention and engage in class may suffer as a result of the disease. As a result, a teacher may be the first adult to discover something isn't quite right. If the teacher doesn't know about absence seizures, he or she might say that the student isn't paying attention or looks like he or she is daydreaming.
Outside of the classroom, the child's symptoms may impair his or her ability to focus, whether playing sports or doing schoolwork. Seizures can also make it difficult to communicate with friends or family members.
You will be asked to describe your child's symptoms to the doctor. He or she will inquire as to how frequently and for how long the symptoms occur. People in your family may also be asked about how they've been treated for epilepsy.
Your child's medical history will be reviewed by the doctor, which will include:
Any previous birth trauma
A severe head injury
Encephalitis and meningitis are examples of infections that affect the brain.
A comprehensive physical examination will be performed by the doctor. This will include a thorough assessment of your child's neurological system.
Blood testing may be required. They will look for common medical conditions that can cause seizures or mimic epilepsy. The results of your child's physical checkup and blood testing will, in most situations, be normal.
Your doctor may request an electroencephalogram (EEG) as a final step in the diagnostic process. An EEG is a painless examination. It detects your child's electrical activity and converts it into a sequence of printed patterns. There are a lot of kids with absence epilepsy who have the same pattern on their EEG, which confirms the diagnosis.
Seizures that last a long time In rare situations, your child's doctor may be concerned that absence seizures are caused by both anatomical and electrical abnormalities in the brain. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan of your child's brain may be ordered by the doctor. Imaging tests are performed for a variety of reasons, including:
Symptoms in an unusual pattern
Physical or neurological examination findings that are abnormal.
A medical condition that puts the child at risk for seizures, such as:
Injuries to the head
Absence epilepsy is frequently outgrown by the time a kid reaches adolescence. Anti-epilepsy medicine is used to control the symptoms till then.
Epilepsy can't be prevented.
If your child has absence epilepsy, the doctor will prescribe medication to reduce the number of absence seizures he or she suffers. Anticonvulsants are what they're called (also called antiepileptic or antiseizure drugs).
The anticonvulsant drugs ethosuximide (Zarontin) and valproic acid are the two most commonly administered for absence epilepsy (Depakene and Depakote). Ethosuximide only works to keep you from having absence seizures. Valproic acid is a generic anticonvulsant that is used to treat tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures as well as myoclonic, partial, and absence seizures.
Controlling your child's absence epilepsy can help him or her achieve their full potential at school and at home. Treatment for seizures normally lasts at least two years after your child starts taking it.
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
If you detect any of the following symptoms in your child, contact his or her doctor.
Deep daydreaming for short durations of time
Other actions that could indicate absence seizures include:
If your child's teacher complains that your youngster isn't paying attention, tuning out, or is always daydreaming, inquire about other absence seizure symptoms. Does your youngster, for example,
Keep your gaze fixed on the chalkboard.
When daydreaming, blink Twitch several times.
Request that your child's symptoms be written down in detail by the teacher. Allow the teacher to calculate the length of each episode and the number of episodes per day.
Check to see whether you observe any of these same habits at home after you have this description. Then schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the matter.
The future looks bright. The majority of children with absence epilepsy grow out of it without difficulties. With the correct therapy, the youngster can lead a normal life at school and at home.
In the vast majority of cases, there is no long-term impact on brain growth, function, or level of intelligence.