Absence Crisis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Management

They are a type of generalized non-motor crisis.

They were first described by Poupart in 1705 and then by Tissot in 1770, who used the term petit access.

In the absence of seizures, epileptic activity occurs throughout the brain. It is a milder type of activity that causes unconsciousness without attacks. After the episode, the person has no memory of it.

They are also often called petit mal seizures. Absence seizures generally occur in children ages 4 to 14. A child can have 10, 50, or even 100 absence seizures on any day, and they can go unnoticed.

Most children who have typical absence seizures are normal. However, absent attacks can interfere with learning and affect concentration in school. This is why prompt treatment is essential.

Absence seizures are a type of epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures. Seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity. These mixed messages confuse your brain and cause a seizure.

Not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Usually, a diagnosis of epilepsy can be made after two or more episodes.


Absence seizures often occur in conjunction with other attacks that cause muscle jerks, twitches, and tremors.

Absence seizures can be confused with other types of attacks. Doctors will pay close attention to your symptoms to make the correct diagnosis. This is very important for the effective and safe treatment of seizures.

It is rare for absence seizures to continue into adulthood, but it is possible to have an absence seizure.

Causes of absence seizures

Like other seizures, absence seizures are caused by abnormal activity in a person’s brain. Doctors often do not know why this happens.

Most absence seizures last less than 15 seconds, and it is rare for an absence seizure to last longer than 15 seconds. They can happen suddenly without any warning signs.

Absence seizures occur in idiopathic and symptomatic generalized epilepsies.

Among idiopathic generalized epilepsies, absence seizures are seen in childhood absence epilepsy (pirknolepsy), juvenile absence epilepsy, and juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (impulsive petit mal).

Symptoms of absence seizures

The easiest way to detect an absence attack is to look for a blank stare that lasts a few seconds. People amid an absence crisis do not speak, listen, or understand.

An absence attack does not usually even cause a fall. The individual could be in the middle of making dinner, walking around the room, or writing an email when the seizure occurs.

Then, suddenly, the seizure ends, and the individual continues as he was before the attack.

Here are other possible symptoms of an absence seizure:

  • Seizures may not be noticeable because they are brief.
  • Move your lips or make a chewing motion with your mouth.
  • Fast breathing
  • Rhythmic blinking.
  • Stops activity (suddenly doesn’t speak or move), goes blank and stops responding for a few seconds.
  • They may appear to be daydreaming.
  • They will not respond to what is happening around them.
  • If they are walking, they can keep walking, but they will not know what they are doing.
  • Suddenly returns to activity after the seizure ends.

If the patient experiences jerky movements, it may signify another type of seizure that occurs along with the absence seizure.

Diagnosis of absence crisis

The patient may have absent seizures repeatedly for years before turning to the doctor for a diagnosis. You may have “onset episodes” without thinking of them as medical problems or seizures.

An EEG is a test most often used to diagnose absence seizures. This test records the electrical activity of the brain and detects abnormalities that could indicate an absence of attacks.

These tests can also help diagnose absent seizures or rule out other conditions:

  • Blood test.
  • Kidney and liver tests.
  • CT scan or MRI.
  • Spinal tap to test cerebrospinal fluid.

Treatment of absence seizures

The absence of seizures can affect your ability to function at work or school, so your doctor should be consulted about treatment.

Absence seizures can be treated with several different seizure medications. The type of medicine your healthcare provider recommends you take will also depend on what other seizure disorder you may have.

If you have more than one type of seizure disorder, the patient may need to take several medications.

Absence seizures are the most socially tolerated since episodes are brief and involve few physical changes. Absence seizures generally respond well to the following possible treatments:

  • Acetazolamide.
  • Clonazepam.
  • Ethosuximide.
  • Lamotrigine.
  • Valproic acid, for children prone to tonic-clonic attacks.

Prevention of absence seizures

Taking your medications exactly as your doctor prescribed is one of the best ways to control absence seizures. But you can also make some changes in your life to help prevent absent attacks. These include:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Find ways to manage stress .
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Living with an absence crisis

Most people with epilepsy live entire and active lives with medications and other lifestyle changes.

But sometimes, it can be challenging to handle life events large and small when you have epilepsy.

Depending on the age and severity, and type of epilepsy, you may need help with the following:

Behavioral and emotional problems

It is essential to get enough sleep and manage stress when you have epilepsy. Stress and lack of sleep can trigger seizures.

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about making sure you get enough sleep. Learning coping techniques help the patient to manage stress and anxiety.


With proper treatment, people with epilepsy can do almost any job safely and effectively. However, specific jobs with a high risk to public safety may not be an option.

Address discrimination and stigma

Children and adults with epilepsy can face discrimination and fight to overcome the stigma associated with this neurological condition.

Educating family, friends, co-workers, and classmates about this condition helps them know what to

expect and how to help during a seizure.


Children with epilepsy may be entitled to special services, and the child’s teacher will help improve the management of epilepsy at school.

It is essential for parents of children with epilepsy to balance safety and fun; they should allow the child to have some independence of their age and participate in sports and other activities at school when possible.


Considering public transportation where available is a good option. If they continue to have absent seizures, it may not be safe for the person suffering from this type of seizure to drive.

Online support and resources

The patient may feel lonely when dealing with epilepsy in everyday life but be assured that many people have epilepsy.

Local support groups can be found, and many online resources provide tools and tips for managing this condition.

Online social media support groups bring together people from all over the world who manage their epilepsy. These groups provide support and encouragement.

Management of the absence crisis

Parents are often very concerned that they will not even know when their child has a seizure.

Absence crises are very mild and subtle, making it easy for parents and teachers to overlook them.

Absence seizures are often not diagnosed until many have occurred. The attacks are likely to continue until the person is treated with medication.

Because these seizures can frequently occur during the day, they are likely to interfere with the child’s functioning. A child who experiences them may have difficulty learning if absence seizures are not recognized and treated.

To help determine if the child is having an absence seizure or daydreaming, tap the child on the shoulder. If the child responds, they are probably daydreaming.

The child will not be aware of these seizures when they occur and, therefore, will need to understand what happened once he regains consciousness.

Educating others (especially teachers) about absence crises is also essential to be more tolerant of the child’s apparent “sleep.”