Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In medicine, there are many kinds of generalized seizures. In absence seizures, the person may appear to be staring into space and/or have jerking or twitching muscles. These seizures are sometimes referred to as petit mal seizures, which is an older term. These periods last for seconds, or even tens of seconds. They sometimes move from one location to another without any purpose.
Just as there are many different kinds of seizures, there are many different kinds of epilepsy. Doctors have identified hundreds of different epilepsy syndromes - disorders characterized by a specific set of symptoms that include epilepsy. Some of these syndromes appear to be hereditary. For other syndromes, the cause is unknown. Epilepsy syndromes are frequently described by their symptoms or by where in the brain they originate. People should discuss the implications of their type of epilepsy with their doctors to understand the full range of symptoms, the possible treatments, and the prognosis.
People with absence epilepsy have repeated absence seizures that cause momentary lapses of consciousness. These seizures almost always begin in childhood or adolescence, and they tend to run in families, suggesting that they may be at least partially due to a defective gene or genes. Some people with absence seizures have purposeless movements during their seizures, such as a jerking arm or rapidly blinking eyes. Others have no noticeable symptoms except for brief times when they are "out of it." Immediately after a seizure, the person can resume whatever he or she was doing. However, these seizures may occur so frequently that the person cannot concentrate in school or other situations. Childhood absence epilepsy usually stops when the child reaches puberty. Absence seizures usually have no lasting effect on intelligence or other brain functions.
Interesting to note about the absence siezure is that those having one show no emotional expressions during the absent period. This indicates that a certain level of conciousness and arousal are needed to experience emotions.
This article is based on text taken from the public domain NINDS document "Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research" at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/pubs/seizures_and_epilepsy_htr.htm
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