Petit mal seizures are caused by a temporary disturbance in electrical activity of the brain, and usually last for 15 seconds or less. The following HealthHearty article provides a brief overview of this condition.
Petit mal seizure, or absence seizure, is a type of seizure that occurs only for a couple of seconds. They are generally observed in people under the age of 20 years, with the most common age group being 6-12 years.
A petit mal seizure occurs for about 15 seconds or less. A child may suffer from 50-100 absence seizures in a day, and none of these may be noticeable due to their brief duration. The affected child will come back to his/her normal self, without even realizing the occurrence of a seizure. Most of the time, the child never has any memory of the episode.
Our brain is a complex organ made up of thousands of nerve cells called neurons. These neurons send impulses or messages to one another with the help of electrical signals. When this electrical pattern is temporarily disturbed, it affects a part of the brain (or the entire brain), resulting in seizures.
These seizures have a really short duration, and are mostly called ‘staring episodes’. This is because when a child experiences the symptoms, he/she may suddenly stop the activity at hand, and stare. Then, within a few seconds, he/she will continue the particular activity from where he/she had stopped. This sudden loss of activity causes a lot of problems at school. The child can lose track of what is being taught, due to repetitive spells.
When the child suffers from an episode, he is often thought to misbehave, or suffer from attention problems. However, the child himself is not aware of the episode, and therefore cannot explain his spell. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Changes in muscle activity, which are manifested through fluttering of eyelids, twitching, fumbling, lip smacking, etc., or no body movements at all.
- Changes in alertness, which are evident through staring, loss of awareness of the surroundings, etc.
- Sudden pause while performing routine activities like talking, walking, laughing, etc.
The atypical forms of this seizure tend to last longer than normal, and are manifested through more noticeable alterations in muscle activitites and a short period of confusion and change in behavior.
The seizures cannot be prevented in any way. Most children tend to outgrow their condition. However, treatment is necessary as it will reduce the number of absence seizure spells, and make life easy for the child. The treatment in children includes use of medication like ethosuximide, lamotrigine or valproic acid.
Petit mal seizures neither cause any damage to the brain nor affect the normal development of the child. Speak to a doctor, if your child is regularly suffering from brief periods of sudden staring, day dreaming, etc.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.