Parents and teachers may notice their children daydream from time to time. That might not be daydreaming at all. About two in one thousand American children are affected by Absence Seizure, and that looks just like daydreaming. If parents and teachers have noticed a child’s inability to pay attention or often daydreaming, you will need to watch closer because it could be caused by absence seizure.
An absence seizure is the term for a type of seizure involving staring spells. This type of seizure is a brief disturbance of brain function due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Most absence seizures last only a few seconds(10-20 seconds). During the seizure, the person may:
- Stop walking, stare vacantly and start again a few seconds later
- Stop talking in mid-sentence, stare vacantly and start again a few seconds late
There can be other signs including:
- Lip smacking
- Eyelid flutters
- Chewing motions
- Finger rubbing
- Small movements of both hands
Afterwards, there’s no memory of the incident, no confusion, headache or drowsiness, the person is wide awake, can think clearly. A child may have many episodes daily, which interfere with school or daily activities. But the episodes are so brief , usually an adult can’t notice the seizure.
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 or that a child is often daydreaming.
Absence seizures are more common in children between the ages of 4 and 14, more common in girls. Many children appear to have a genetic predisposition to absence seizures, they usually have a close relative with seizures.
To diagnose, your doctor will perform a physical exam. This will include a detailed look at the brain and nervous system.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) will be done to check the electrical activity in the brain. People with seizures often have abnormal electrical activity seen on this test. In some cases, the test shows the area in the brain where the seizures start. The brain may appear normal after a seizure or between seizures.
Blood tests may also be ordered to check for other health problems that may be causing the seizures.
Head CT or MRI scan may be done to find the cause and location of the problem in the brain.
Many children outgrow absence seizures in their teens.
Anti-seizure drugs is one of the treatment options. Drugs presribed for absence siezure include:
- Ethosuximide (Zarontin). This is the drug most doctors start with for absence seizures.
- Valproic acid (Depakene). Valproic acid has a side effect related to birth deficit.
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal). This one is reported less effective but with less side effects.
Following a diet that’s high in fat and low in carbohydrates, known as a ketogenic diet, can improve seizure control. Get enough sleep will also help.