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Absence Seizures

Absence seizures were formerly called “petit mal seizures”.

There is a loss of consciousness for about 10 to 30 seconds during which the patient has generalized muscle twitching. Associated with this is a typical eye lid fluttering at a rate of about 3 flutters per second.

The muscle tone may or may not be lost. So, the child simply stops what he/she is doing, and after this pause where the above can be observed, continues with the prior activities as if nothing has happened. The child will not remember anything of the time during the absence seizure. These seizures happen often while the child is sitting and hyperventilation seems to bring them on. There is a genetic cause for these seizures and it is not surprising therefore that they occur in families.


Several medications are effective in treating absence seizures. Clonazepam (Rivotril, Clonapam), valproic acid ( brand names: Depakene, Deproic, Epival, Epiject,Alti-Valproic) and ethosuximide( brand name: Zarontin) are all effective in controlling these seizures. For absence seizures, which do not repond to these medications often acetazolamide (brand name: Diamox) is effective.

 Absence Seizures (This Is A Partial Seizure)

Absence Seizures (This Is A Partial Seizure)



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Last modified: October 2, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.