A petit mal seizure is the term commonly given to a staring spell, most commonly called an "absence seizure." It is a brief (usually less than 15 seconds) disturbance of brain function due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
For more information, see:
Petit mal seizures occur most commonly in people under age 20, usually in children ages 6 to 12.
They may occur with other types of seizures, such as generalized tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures), twitches or jerks (myoclonus), or sudden loss of muscle strength (atonic seizures).
Most petit mal seizures last only a few seconds. Most commonly they involve staring episodes or "absence spells." The episodes may:
Unexplained difficulties in school and learning difficulties may be the first sign of petit mal seizures.
During the seizure, the person may:
The person usually does not fall during the seizure.
Immediately after the seizure, the person is usually:
Specific symptoms of typical petit mal seizures may include:
Atypical petit mal seizures begin slower and last longer. Symptoms are similar but muscle activity changes may be more noticeable.
For information on diagnosis and treatment, see:
Epilepsy Foundation of America -- www.epilepsyfoundation.org
Seizure - petit mal; Absence seizure; Seizure - absence
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Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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