Petit Mal Seizures  –  Know It All!


All you need to know about Petit Mal Seizures.

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Petit Mal Seizures 

What are Petit mal seizures or Absence seizures?

Petit Mal Seizures are also commonly known as Absence Seizures.

The absence of seizure causes you to blackout for a few seconds or gazes into space. In children, absence seizures are most common and typically do not cause any long-term problems. A duration of hyperventilation is also set off by these forms of seizures.

Absence seizures typically occur in children between the ages of 4 and 14. On a given day, a child may have 10, 50, or even 100 missed seizures, and they may go unnoticed. Otherwise, most kids who have typical absence seizures are regular. Absence seizures can, however, get in the way of learning and impair school focus. This is why it is important to have prompt treatment.

Absence seizures, a disorder that triggers seizures, are a form of epilepsy. Abnormal brain activity induces seizures. Such mixed signals leave the brain confused and triggering a seizure.

Epilepsy does not happen to everyone who has a seizure. After two or more seizures, a diagnosis of epilepsy can typically be made.

Along with other forms of seizures that involve muscle jerking, twitching, and trembling, absence seizures sometimes occur. It is possible to confuse absence seizures with other types of seizures. In order to make the correct diagnosis, physicians will pay careful attention to the symptoms. This is very important for the management of your seizures successfully and safely.

It is unusual for absence seizures to persist into adulthood, but at any age, you may have an absence seizure.

Petit Mal Seizures 
What are the types of Absence seizures?

Typical Absence Seizures

  • These seizures are the most common.
  • The person suddenly stops all activity. It may look like he or she is staring off into space or just has a blank look.
  • The eyes may turn upwards and eyelids flutter.
  • The seizures usually last less than 10 seconds.

Atypical Absence Seizures

  • These absence seizures are called atypical because they may be longer, have a slower onset and offset, and involve different symptoms.
  • The seizure still starts with staring into space, usually with a blank look.
  • There is usually a change in muscle tone and movement. You may see
  • Blinking over and over that may look like the fluttering of the eyelids
  • Smacking the lips or chewing movements
  • Rubbing fingers together or making other hand motions
  • An atypical absence seizure lasts longer, up to 20 seconds or more.

What are the causes of Absence seizures?

  • Your brain is a complex organ, and for many things, your body depends on it. It maintains your breathing and pulse. To communicate, the nerve cells in your brain transmit electrical and chemical signals to each other. This electrical activity in the brain is messed with by a seizure. Your brain’s neural impulses replicate themselves throughout the absence of a seizure. An individual with no seizures may also have altered neurotransmitter levels. The chemical messengers that help cells interact are these.
  • The exact cause of absence seizures is unclear to researchers. The disorder can be genetic and can be passed from generation to generation. An absence of seizure in others can result from hyperventilation or flashing lights. For certain patients, physicians can never find a particular cause.

What are the riskfactors of Absence seizures?

Certain factors are common to children who have absence seizures, including:

  • Age. Absence seizures are more common in children between the ages of 4 and 14.
  • Sex. Absence seizures are more common in girls.
  • Family members who have seizures. Nearly half of children with absence seizures have a close relative who has seizures.

What are the complications of Absence seizures?

Usually, absence seizures last from 10 and 15 seconds. After the seizure, the person returns to normal activity. Generally, the person does not recall the past few moments or the seizure itself. Some seizures of absence can last up to 20 seconds.

Although there is a lack of seizures in the brain, they do not cause brain damage. The absence of seizures in most kids would have little effect on intelligence. Because of lapses in consciousness, some kids can experience learning difficulties. Others may believe they are daydreaming or they may not pay attention.

In most cases, whether the person falls or gets killed, the only long-term consequences of a missed seizure arise. Falls aren’t typical during the seizure. An individual may experience seizures of absence a dozen or more times a day without any adverse effects.

Other individuals are typically the first to note seizures of absence. This is because the patient is unaware of a seizure they are experiencing.

Children with seizures of absence often outgrow the condition. Absence seizures, however, will continue. Some patients progress to seizures that are longer or more severe.

The following are common complications:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavior problems
  • Social isolation
Petit Mal Seizures 

What are the symptoms of Absence seizures?

The easiest way to spot an absence seizure is to look for a blank stare that lasts for a few seconds. People in the midst of having an absence seizure don’t speak, listen, or appear to understand. An absence seizure doesn’t typically cause you to fall down. You could be in the middle of making dinner, walking across the room, or typing an email when you have the seizure. Then suddenly you snap out of it and continue as you were before the seizure.

These are other possible symptoms of an absence seizure:

  • Being very still
  • Smacking the lips or making a chewing motion with the mouth
  • Fluttering the eyelids
  • Stopping activity (suddenly not talking or moving)
  • Suddenly returning to activity when the seizure ends

If you experience jerking motions, it may be a sign of another type of seizure taking place along with the absence of seizure.

How are absence seizures diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask for a detailed description of the seizures and conduct a physical exam. Tests may include:

  • Electroencephalography (EEG). This painless procedure measures waves of electrical activity in the brain. Brain waves are transmitted to the EEG machine via small electrodes attached to the scalp with paste or an elastic cap.
    Rapid breathing (hyperventilation) during an EEG study can trigger an absence seizure. During a seizure, the pattern on the EEG differs from the normal pattern. Cerebral scans. Brain-imaging experiments, such as magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI), are common in the absence of seizures. But tests such as MRI can provide clear brain scans, which can help to rule out other complications, such as a brain tumour or a stroke. Speak to your doctor about the potential use of sedation because your child would need to stay still for long periods.
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What is the treatment for Absence seizures?

It is likely that your doctor will start with the lowest possible dose of anti-seizure medication and increase your dose to treat your seizures as needed. Children may be able to taper off anti-seizure medications after they have been seizure-free for two years, under the supervision of a doctor.

Medications recommended for seizure absence include:

  • Ethosuximide. This is the medicine that most doctors proceed with for the absence of seizures. Seizures react well to this drug in most cases. Nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, trouble sleeping, hyperactivity is all possible side effects.
  • Valproic acid. Girls who continue to require medicine into adulthood can explore with their physicians the possible dangers of valproic acid. Valproic acid has been linked with an increased risk of birth defects in children, and physicians warn women not to use it while pregnant or attempting to conceive. In children who have both absence and grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures, physicians may consider using valproic acid.
  • Lamotrigine. This drug is shown to be less effective than ethosuximide or valproic acid in some studies but has fewer side effects. Rash and nausea can have side effects.

Valproic acid should not be taken by pregnant women or women who are thinking about being pregnant because it raises the risk of birth defects.

For those with absence seizures, certain tasks may be hazardous. This is because seizures caused by absence cause a temporary loss of consciousness. During a seizure absence, driving and swimming may cause an accident or drowning. If they are confident your seizures are under control, your doctor can limit your operation. Some states may also have laws on how long a person must go before getting back on the road without a seizure.

Those that do not have seizures may wish to wear a bracelet for medical identification. In the event of an emergency, this lets people know what to do. People will also want to warn loved ones on what to do if there is a seizure.

Petit Mal Seizures 

Coping with Absence Seizures:

With medicine and other lifestyle changes, most people with epilepsy live full and active lives. Yet juggling big and small life activities when you have epilepsy can be difficult at times. You will need assistance with the following, depending on your age and the nature and form of epilepsy:

Issues of actions and emotion. Having enough sleep and handling stress when you have epilepsy is important. Seizures can be caused by stress and lack of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, explore how to make sure you get enough sleep with your healthcare provider. Learn ways of coping that can help you control anxiety and stress.

Occupation. With proper care, people with epilepsy can safely and efficiently do just about every work. However, those occupations where there is a high public safety risk might not be an option. The Americans with Disabilities Act includes epilepsy. This legislation forbids bias against persons with epilepsy and other disabilities.

Coping with stigma and prejudice. Children and adults with epilepsy may face prejudice and struggle to overcome this neurological condition-related stigma. Help teach your condition to relatives, colleagues, co-workers, and classmates. Let them know what to expect during a seizure and how to help.

Pedagogy. Under the Persons with Disabilities Education Act ( IDEA), children with epilepsy may be entitled to special care. Working together with the child’s teacher and school nurse will help to improve school epilepsy treatment. To balance safety and fun, it’s important for parents of children with epilepsy. Enable your child to have some age-appropriate independence and, where possible, engage in sports and other school activities.

Piloting. For individuals with epilepsy, each state has different driving rules. Licensing can rely on how serious seizures are and how well managed they are. Where it is accessible, consider public transportation. If you continue to have seizures in your absence, driving will not be safe for you.

Support and online resources. In dealing with everyday life with epilepsy, you may feel alone but be assured that many individuals have epilepsy. Via your healthcare provider or local hospital, you will find local support groups. Several online resources offer tools and tips for handling this situation. Social networking support groups online put together individuals from across the globe who are treating their epilepsy. Support and encouragement is offered by these organizations.

You will want to work more closely with your healthcare professional to find a better way to manage your absence of seizures if you have difficulty controlling them.


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Gopala Krishna Varshith,

Content Developer & Editor,