An indication of simple absence seizure is a vacant stare, which may be mistaken for a lapse in attention that lasts 10 to 15 seconds, without any subsequent confusion, headache or drowsiness. Signs and symptoms of absence seizures include:

  • Sudden stop in motion without falling
  • Lip smacking
  • Eyelid flutters
  • Chewing motions
  • Finger rubbing
  • Small movements of both hands

Absence seizures generally last 10 to 15 seconds, followed immediately by full recovery. Afterward, there's no memory of the incident. Some people have dozens of episodes daily, which interfere with school or daily activities.

A child may have absence seizures for some time before an adult notices the seizures, because they're so brief. A 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 this is a new type of seizure
  • If the seizures continue to occur despite being placed on anti-seizure medication

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. 03, 2014

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