Absence seizures in adults or children involve a brief and sudden loss of or lapses of consciousness for up to a few seconds. Those who experience this type of seizure may have a short period of “staring into space” or blanking out. An abnormal electrical activity in a person’s brain can cause this type of seizure. Absence seizures are more common in children than in adults.

If someone encounters absence seizures they stare blankly somewhere for a few seconds and then return quickly to alertness. The duration of seizure is very short and therefore, it doesn’t usually lead to physical injury. However, the possibility of injury still exists during the period in which the person loses consciousness. The risk of an accident, injury, or fall is high particularly when a person with this type of seizure drives a car or rides a bicycle and encounters this type of absence seizure.

What are the signs and symptoms of absence seizures?

A person having an absence seizure stares blankly for a few seconds. It is often mistaken for a brief lapse in attention during any activity. Typically, the seizure may last for around 10 to 15 seconds, but it can stretch up to 30 seconds as well. The person who experiences an absence seizure may not have a headache, confusion, or drowsiness after the seizure.

The typical signs and symptoms of absence seizures in adults or children may include

  • Staring blankly
  • Sudden stopping activity without falling
  • Slight movement of both hands
  • Finger rubbing
  • Chewing motions
  • Evelid flutters
  • Eves may turn upwards
  • Lip smacking

How to know whether a person has absence seizures?

Many people don’t remember seizures afterward. They usually have no memory of the incident. In cases of longer seizures, a person may be aware of lapses in consciousness or attention. Some children may have daily episodes that may hamper their school, studies, and daily activities.

If a child consistently and constantly has absence seizures, an adult may notice them. Teachers may complain to parents regarding the child’s inability to concentrate or focus. Teachers may often complain that a child is daydreaming. In general, the first sign of an absence seizure is a decline in the child’s learning ability.

Bottom Line

Absence seizures are so brief that they are often missed. This type of seizure begins during childhood – and is less often seen in older teens and adults. Many children or adults may have absence seizures for several months and years before being diagnosed as a health issue. Many people often mistake absence seizures for daydreaming or not paying attention. For this reason, diagnosing it becomes difficult.

The number of absence seizures and episodes may vary a lot. Some people may have hundreds of absence seizures in a day. With anti-epileptic medicines absence seizures can be controlled in many children. Don’t delay in consulting a neurologist if you see or notice a decline in your child’s performance in school due to lack of attention or blanking outs.