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New Onset Absence Seizures in Adults


Absence seizures, or petit mal seizures, are a type of epilepsy. Both sides of the brain are affected. A seizure is an episode of abnormal brain activity. You are not aware that the seizure happened. Absence seizures can happen more than 100 times each day. Absence seizures usually do not cause serious health problems. Some people also develop another type of seizure called a tonic-clonic seizure. This is a seizure that causes convulsions. Absence seizures are most common in children and adolescents. They can also start in adulthood. This is called an adult new-onset seizure.


Call your doctor if:

  • You are confused for several minutes after a seizure.
  • You have an absence seizure in water, such as a swimming pool or bath tub.
  • You are depressed or anxious because of the seizures.
  • Your seizures start to happen more often or last longer.
  • You continue to have absence seizures even with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antiepileptic medicine may be given to help control the seizures. You may need medicine daily to prevent seizures. Do not stop taking this medicine unless directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

What you can do to help manage or prevent absence seizures:

  • Take the seizure medicine every day at the same time. This will also help prevent medicine side effects. Set an alarm to help remind you to take the medicine every day. Do not stop this medicine without direction from a healthcare provider. If you are a woman, talk to your provider about family planning while you are taking this medicine.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can trigger an absence seizure. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Keep your room dark and quiet. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble sleeping.
  • Keep a seizure diary. Write down the dates of the seizures. Include where you were, and what you were doing. Also include anything that happened during the seizure, such as lip-smacking. Bring the diary with you to follow-up visits with healthcare providers. This may help you and the providers change your treatment.
  • Ask what safety precautions to take. Talk with your healthcare provider about driving. You may not be able to drive until you are seizure-free for a period of time. You may need to check the law where you live. Tell your provider about your workplace. He or she can tell you about any safety risks where you work. An example is operating heavy machinery. Also talk to healthcare providers about swimming and bathing safety. You may drown or develop life-threatening heart or lung damage if a seizure happens in water.
  • Talk to others about the seizures. Tell your family members, friends, and coworkers what to expect with the seizures. Make sure everyone knows not to shake or push you to make you respond. Explain that the episode should only last a few seconds and to be patient.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about New Onset Absence Seizures in Adults (Discharge Care)

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