Typical Absences (used to be known as Petit Mal)
Absence seizures are a type of generalised onset seizure, meaning both sides of your brain are affected from the start.
If you are having a typical absence seizure, you will be unconscious for a few seconds. You will suddenly stop doing whatever you were doing before it started, but will not fall. You might appear to be daydreaming or ‘switching off’, or people around you might not notice your absence. Your eyelids might flutter and you might have slight jerking movements of your body or limbs. In longer absences, you might have some brief, repeated actions. You won’t know what is happening around you, and can’t be brought out of it.
Some people have hundreds of absences a day. They often have them in clusters of several, one after another, and they are often worse when they are waking up or drifting off to sleep. Typical absence seizures almost always start in childhood before the age of 14.
A single typical absence seizure usually lasts less than 10 seconds. But some people have clusters of absences one after another.
These absences are similar to, but not the same as, typical absences. They last longer, and they start and end more slowly. You might be able to move around, but your muscles might go limp or ‘floppy’, making you clumsy. You may be able to respond to someone during an atypical absence seizure.
People who have atypical absences usually have learning disabilities or other conditions that affect the brain. Atypical absences can happen at any age.
Atypical absence seizures last longer, up to 30 seconds.