Signs of absence seizures include:

  • Vacant stare
  • Absence of motion without falling
  • Lip smacking
  • Eyelid flutters
  • Chewing motions
  • Hand movements
  • Small movements of both arms

Absence seizures last only a few seconds. Full recovery is almost instantaneous. Afterward, there's no confusion, but also no memory of the incident. Some people experience dozens of these episodes each day, which interferes with their performance at school or work.

Children who are walking or doing other complex tasks during a seizure probably won't fall, though they'll be unaware.

Absence seizures in a child may occur for some time before an adult notices them, because they're so brief. A noticeable decline in a child's learning ability may be the first sign of this disorder. Teachers may comment about a child's inability to pay attention.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor:

  • The first time you notice a seizure
  • If you have a new type of seizure

Seek immediate medical attention:

  • If you observe prolonged automatic behaviors — activities such as eating or moving without awareness — or prolonged confusion, possible symptoms of a condition called absence status epilepticus
  • After any seizure lasting more than five minutes
Jun. 23, 2011