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What Are Mini Seizures?

Updated April 15, 2017

Mini seizures---called petit mal or absence seizures---are a form of epilepsy that can be treated with medication. Most people would not notice someone having an absence seizure because there are no erratic movements, just a stare and maybe some upper lid twitching. The stigma of epilepsy has plagued many sufferers through the years, but here are people who did not let it hold them back including Charles Dickens, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and Agatha Christie.

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Signs and Symptoms

Absence seizures involve a loss of consciousness though the eyes are open, and the lids may flutter. These types of seizures can be easily ignored because they do not cause any real problems. They can last 10 to 30 seconds and can occur several times in a day. They normally appear when the person is sitting quietly.

There are dangers that can occur during a seizure depending on what the person is doing at the time. Swimming or bike riding can present problems if a person has a seizure while participating in either activity.

Seizures can be brought on by hyperventilation and photosynthesis, although the biggest cause is failing to take prescribed medication.

The condition normally starts in childhood and can remain through life or disappear in adulthood.


Taking a history of the patient and the family is one of the first steps in diagnosing seizures because they can be hereditary. They can also be caused from a brain injury or certain illnesses like AIDS, malaria and meningitis.

The neurologist uses diagnostic equipment that hopefully gives him a definitive answer. An electroencephalograph (EEG) is used to monitor electrical impulses made in the brain. Other tests that may be helpful are computed tomography, (CT) scans of the head, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Some blood tests can also be beneficial.


During a seizure the electrical activity of the brain becomes erratic and abnormal. There are many things that can cause seizures. In infants, they can be the result of a birth defect that affected the brain or a birth injury. Autoimmune diseases, infections, tumours, metabolic disorders like hyperglycaemia and drugs can cause seizures. Some causes remain unknown.


Absence seizures are treated with medications. Anti-seizure medication can cause allergy symptoms such as skin rashes. Adjustments of the dosage can be made according to the severity of the allergy, and the effect that the medication has on the seizures.


Medications are the only treatment at this time for absence seizures and has been successful in eliminating symptoms. There is no cure, but the treatment makes it possible for the patient with this disorder to live a normal life and participate in normal activities.

Research is striving to find causes by looking into genes. In some studies, children have been found to have fewer seizures eating a high fat diet that is low in carbohydrates.

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About the Author

Vickie Van Antwerp began her career as a technical writer for a consulting firm in 1987. Now a freelance writer in her fields of interest, her writings appear on southjersey.com, youandmemagazine.com and in "The Phelps Connection" and "The Storyteller." Van Antwerp holds an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from Gloucester County College and certification as a surgical technologist from Lenoir College.

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