Absence seizures represent a form of epilepsy characterized primarily negative clinical phenomena, i.e. loss or diminution of normal activity. Staring and transient loss of responsiveness are the most common manifestations, although subtle motor activity may occur, including eyelid fluttering or myoclonic jerks. Due to the brief and subtle nature of these episodes, absence epilepsy may go unrecognized for long periods of time or be mistakenly attributed to daydreaming or attention deficit disorder.
Absence spells may last up to 10 seconds apiece and occur dozens of times daily. Patients have no recollection of events occurring during a seizure and will resume their previous activity without any postictal symptoms.
EEG classically shows intermittent runs of generalized, 3 cycle per second spike and wave activity which may be precipitated by hyperventilation.
A genetic basis for absence epilepsy has been postulated, since neuroimaging is typically normal and close relatives frequently demonstrate generalized epileptiform abnormalities on EEG. The specific mode of genetic transmission awaits precise elucidation.
Ethosuximide and valproic acid are the treatments of choice for this disorder.
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Created: July 25, 1995