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Absence Seizures

What are absence seizures?

Absence seizures are a type of epilepsy. This is a condition that causes seizures. Seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity. These mixed messages confuse your brain and cause a seizure. An absence seizure causes you to blank out or stare into space for a few seconds. They can also be called petit mal seizures. Absence seizures are most common in children. They usually don’t cause any long-term problems. They're often set off by a period of very fast breathing (hyperventilation).

Absence seizures often occur in children between ages 4 and 14. A child may have 10, 50, or even 100 absence seizures in 1 day, and you may not notice them. Most children who have typical absence seizures are otherwise normal. But these seizures can get in the way of learning. They can affect concentration at school. This is why getting treatment right away is important.

Not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Often a diagnosis of epilepsy can be made after 2 or more seizures.

Absence seizures often occur along with other types of seizures that cause muscle jerking, twitching, and shaking. Absence seizures may be confused with other types of seizures. Healthcare providers will pay close attention to your symptoms to make the right diagnosis. This is important to ensure safe, effective treatment.

Most absence seizures don't continue into adulthood. But it’s possible to have them at any age.

Can absence seizures be prevented?

Taking your medicines exactly as your healthcare provider prescribed is one of the best ways to manage absence seizures. But you can also make some changes in your life to help prevent absence seizures. These include:

  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Find ways to manage your stress
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly

Living with absence seizures

Most people with epilepsy live full and active lives with medicine and other lifestyle changes. But it can be challenging at times to manage large and small life events when you have epilepsy. Depending on your age and the severity and type of epilepsy, you may need support with the following:

  • Behavioral and emotional issues.  It's important to get enough sleep and manage stress when you have epilepsy. Stress and lack of sleep can trigger seizures. If you have trouble sleeping, talk with your healthcare provider about how to make sure you get enough sleep. Learn coping methods that will help you manage stress and anxiety.
  • Employment. With correct treatment, people with epilepsy can do just about any job safely and well. But some jobs with a high risk to public safety may not be a choice. Epilepsy is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This law prohibits discrimination against people with epilepsy and other disabilities.
  • Coping with discrimination and stigma . Children and adults with epilepsy may face discrimination. They struggle to overcome the stigma linked to this condition. Teach your family, friends, co-workers, and classmates about your condition. Let them know what to expect and how to help during a seizure.
  • Education. Children with epilepsy may be entitled to special services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Work closely with your child’s teacher and school nurse to help manage epilepsy at school. It’s important to balance safety and fun. Let your child have some age-appropriate independence. Let them do sports and other activities at school, when possible.
  • Driving. Each state has different driving laws for people with epilepsy. Licensing may depend on how severe seizures are and how well they are controlled. Think about using public transportation where it's available. If you keep having absence seizures, it may not be safe for you to drive.
  • Support and online resources.  You may feel alone in dealing with day-to-day life with epilepsy. But many people have epilepsy. You can find local support groups through your provider or local hospital. Many online resources give tools and tips for managing this condition. Online social media support groups bring together people from all over the world who are managing their epilepsy. These groups provide support and encouragement.

If you have trouble managing your absence seizures, work more closely with your provider to find a better way to treat them.

Key points about absence seizures

  • Absence seizures generally last just a few seconds. You may have a blank or absent stare.
  • Absence seizures often occur in children between ages 4 and 14. But they can occur at any age.
  • Absence seizures are easy to miss. But tests and an assessment of symptoms can diagnose them.
  • Healthcare providers can usually help find the right mix of medicines and lifestyle changes to manage absence seizures.
  • Without treatment, these seizures can affect school, work, and relationships.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions, and remember what your healthcare provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is advised and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

A leader in burn care

The Legacy Oregon Burn Center is a recognized leader in burn care for adults and children. We offer critical and short-term burn care services and state-of-the-art treatments. We were one of the first burn centers in the nation to add Laser Scar treatment as a standard of care for burn patients. Laser Scar treatment aids in reducing burn scars.

The only facility of this kind between Seattle and Sacramento, our center is a national leader in burn care, as verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons.

Our team of surgeons and consultant physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, nurse case managers, a psychologist, a dietitian, aftercare support staff, outreach and prevention, volunteers, and many others work together to provide the best possible specialized burn care. The Legacy Oregon Burn Center has 16 beds in 16 private rooms. We treat adults and children in all levels of burn care.   


For more information on fire safety, burn awareness and the prevention of burn injuries, see our resource links.

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