Patient information from the BMJ Group Absence seizures in children You might be worried if you've been told your child has absence seizures. But medications work well. Most children grow out of absence seizures by the time they're 12 years old. We've brought together the best and most up-to-date research about absence seizures to see what treatments work. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for your child. What happens?
During an absence seizure, children "shut off" for a few seconds. They stare blankly intospace and don't know what's going on around them.
The child loses consciousness, usually for less than 10 seconds. But a child can havelots of seizures. Some have dozens every day.
There are two types of absence seizure. This information is about typical absenceseizures. They used to be called petit mal seizures. They are a type of epilepsy causedby electrical activity in the brain.
The trouble with absence seizures is that your child may find it hard to learn becausethey keep missing things. Also, they might have an accident if they have a seizure whiledoing something risky.
Medications work well to control seizures. But your child may need to avoid activitiessuch as climbing, swimming unsupervised, or riding a bike on busy roads. What are the symptoms?
It can be hard to tell if your child has absence seizures. The symptoms aren't alwaysclear.
Here are some signs you can look for. Your child might:
Stare into space and not respond to anything
Flutter their eyelids, fidget with their hands, or walk around aimlessly.
If your child has this type of seizure, they should see an epilepsy specialist. The doctormay be able to diagnose absence seizures by doing an electroencephalogram (EEG). This test measures the electrical activity in your child's brain.
BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2013. All rights reserved. Absence seizures in children What treatments work?
Medications can't cure epilepsy. But they may cut down the number of absence seizuresyour child has, or stop them altogether. They can cause side effects.
You'll need to talk to your doctor about whether the benefits of treatment are worth therisk of side effects for your child.
For all these medications, your child's doctor will start the treatment at a low dose andgradually increase it.You shouldn't change your child's dose or stop the treatment withoutspeaking with your doctor.
Epilepsy medications can interfere with some medications used to treat other illnesses. Tell your child's doctor and their pharmacist about your child's epilepsy medication if theyare being treated for other illnesses. Valproate
Valproate (brand names Depacon, Depakene, and Depakote) is often the first drugdoctors try for absence seizures in children.
For 8 in 10 children, taking valproate can cut the number of seizures they have by atleast half.
While taking valproate, your child might get an upset stomach, put on weight, get shakinghands, or lose their hair temporarily. There's also a small chance that valproate mightcause problems with your child's blood (a condition called thrombocytopenia) or theirliver. But these problems are rare. Ethosuximide
Ethosuximide (brand name Zarontin) is one of the main treatments for absence seizures.
For 8 in 10 children, taking ethosuximide can cut their seizures by at least half.
Your child might get an upset stomach, lose their appetite, lose weight, and feel sleepywhile taking ethosuximide. Some children get headaches, find that bright lights hurt theireyes, and behave slightly differently. There's a small chance that ethosuximide will causea problem with the liver or blood, or a serious rash. But these problems are rare. Lamotrigine
Lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal) is another drugs sometimes used for absence seizures.
However, one study found it may not work as well as valproate or ethosuximide.
Your child may have an upset stomach or get stomach pain or a headache while takinglamotrigine. They may also lose their appetite or feel dizzy. Some children get a skinrash, which can be serious. If your child gets a rash or flu-like symptoms while takinglamotrigine, take them to a doctor right away.
BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2013. All rights reserved. Absence seizures in children Clonazepam
Clonazepam is only usually used if other treatments haven't helped. There's someevidence that it can help reduce absence seizures, but not as much as there is for otherdrugs.
Clonazepam can cause side effects including dizziness, clumsiness, hyperactivity, andpersonality changes. What will happen to my child?
Most children grow out of absence seizures. About 9 in 10 children stop getting them bythe time they are 12 years old.
About 1 in 10 children start to get other types of epileptic seizures as they get older. Butthey stop having absence seizures and they have the other type of seizure only rarely.
Most children don't need epilepsy medications for the rest of their life. Your child's doctormay gradually reduce and then stop their medication, to see if the seizures start again.
About 1 in 3 children with absence seizures have problems with learning or behavior. This might be because they miss things during seizures. Or it might be because theirmedication makes them drowsy. What should you do if your child has an absence seizure?
Stay calm. Don't shake your child. Don't shout at them or try to get them to "snap out ofit." Stay with your child until they come out of the seizure.
Call an ambulance if your child's seizure lasts more than three minutes.
Take your child to the emergency room if:
You think it's the first time your child has had an absence seizure
Your child has a different type of seizure for the first time (for example, your childfalls to the ground or their limbs twitch and jerk).
This information is aimed at a US patient audience. This information however does not replace medical advice. If you have a medical problem please see your doctor. for this content. For more information about this condition and sources of the information contained in this leaflet please visit the BestHealth websiteThese leaflets are reviewed annually.
BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2013. All rights reserved. Last published: Jun 11, 2013
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