What Does An Absence Seizure Look Like?
An absence seizure is a type of generalized seizure. A type that usually goes unnoticed as the primary symptom results in a person 'staring into space' which can easily be confused with daydreaming. When an absence seizure occurs, the person will abruptly stop what they are doing for 10-30 seconds until they return to their original state. These seizures don't result in convulsions or falling to the floor. However, the person will feel be unaware of their surroundings, will not be able to communicate and may lose consciousness during the time the seizure is taking place.
While a clear stare being the most telling symptom, there are other symptoms of an absence seizure that you can look out for:
- Suddenly stopping an activity
- Remaining still /not falling
- No memory of a seizure taking place
- Not being able to answer a question, look at you or move
- Return to normal/not remembering being absent
When the person recovers, they may continue doing what they did before the seizure takes place. This is due to many not remembering that the seizure happened. Some people have noted headaches and occasionally drowsiness post to the seizure, whereas many feel no after-effects at all.
Causes of Absence Seizures
Research continues to discover a cause of an absence seizure as with all seizure disorders. We know they are caused by abnormal activity within the brain but with no clear reason as to why this happens. The most current understanding is it is thought to be genetic, although researchers are not entirely sure with more research needing to be done for a definitive answer.
What Is The Difference Between Absence Seizure & Daydreaming?
Often, a seizure can be mistaken for daydreaming. Both parents and teachers may notice the child staring into space and assuming they have a short attention span. If you or a loved one suspect seizure activity is taking place, you could keep a log of the frequency, duration and detailed description of what is occurring. This will help a doctor to determine if the child is having an absence seizure.
We've all witnessed a daydream and know that we can quickly be snapped back into reality. Compare this to a seizure, the person cannot be brought back to attention until it is over. They cannot answer a question, know who you are or what they are doing until the seizure has ended, which could take as long as 30 seconds. This is a good way to spot a seizure to a standard daydreaming child.
Should you suspect that your child is having seizures, schedule a visit to your local doctor, or ask to see an epilepsy specialist where an electroencephalogram (EEG) can be completed to look at their brain activity and signs of a seizure.
Increased Chances of Developing Another Type of Seizure
In about 25% of patients, there is a high chance of developing another type of generalized seizure called a tonic-clonic seizure, also known as grand mal seizure. Your doctor or health care professional will be able to monitor any changes in seizure activity but to increase safety in the home should a tonic-clonic seizure take place, you can do the following:
- Cover sharp corners of furnishings in the person's room.
- Add wall lights close to the bed to avoid walking in the dark.
- Ensure rooms are kept tidy with minimal objects on the floor, especially the walkway.
- Check weekly for changes in behaviour such as prolonged headaches and dizziness.
For more information about tonic-clonic seizures, speak with your health care provider.