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Absence Seizures in Adults

Absence Seizures in Adults

This article will give you an insight into the neurological disorder called absence seizures in adults. Its symptoms and treatments are discussed in detail.
Megha Tiwari
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
Seizures are sudden and temporary malfunctioning of the brain due to some abnormal electrical discharge in the brain, which reduces the flow of blood. They are categorized into various types, like absence, focal, complex partial, simple partial, secondary generalized, and primary generalized seizures. Absence seizures is one of the types of primary generalized seizures. It is found in adults as well as children. In this article, we will be concentrating in the absence seizures in adults only.

The term Petit mal seizure is commonly used for staring spell and is also called absence seizures. It has a very short span, hardly lasts for 15-30 seconds, and is caused due to abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Such patients face a sudden 'blanking out' or a lapse of consciousness, for others it might look to be day dreaming.


There are no underlined causes. Sometimes, these are genetically inherited, and sometimes, they also triggered by hyperventilation. It can be because of deposition of cholesterol in the arteries around the brain. Other diseases, like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease can also be a reason. Some kind of head injury, brain tumor, meningitis, kidney failure, and epilepsy can be other causes. They can even occur due to withdrawal from the addictive substances.

  • The most common symptom is frequent day dreaming and continuously staring aimlessly for few seconds at something. The person may stop talking in the middle of the conversation and again start the conversation unexpectedly after few seconds.
  • The patient does not remember anything of that lapse of time, though the thought process is very clear afterwards.
  • Another symptom is having changes in muscle activities, like no movement, fumbling of hands, fluttering eyelids, lip reeking, and chewing during long spells.
  • Consciousness change has also been observed in the patients, like unintentional continuous staring, ignorant of the surrounding, a sudden break in an activity, etc., and could be provoked by flashing lights and complete recovery of consciousness once the seizure span is over. No confusion prevails thereafter and no memory of the incident is left. One might experience hundreds of such incidents in a day. It's very difficult to recognize the symptoms in its early stage, because it has a very short span of occurrence.
Diagnosis and Treatment

For diagnosis, a doctor may ask for a blood test to know the potential causes, like chemical imbalance or discovery of toxic substance in the blood. Electroencephalography (EEG) can be another test to measure the electrical discharges in the brain, because the electrical activities tend to deviate from the normal pattern at such times. Other tests, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can give a detailed picture of the brain. There are many medications available, but finding a right dosage can be a bit complex and may require many trials. At the beginning, the doctor will prescribe low doses of medication and might increase it later depending on the severity.

As there are different types of seizures in adults, it is recommended to the patients to wear medical identification bracelet for certain emergency reasons. Emergency contact number and the prescribed medication should be written on the bracelet. This disorder can be cured if diagnosed at the right time and with right treatment. People suffering from this not only need medication, but also love, affection, and support of people around them.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.