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How Likely Am I to Suffer From Petit Mal Seizures?

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Absence seizures, or petit mal seizures, usually occur in people under the age of 20, usually in children aged 5 to 15. They may be accompanied by different types of seizures like grand mal seizures, twitches or jerks (myoclonus) or sudden loss of muscle strength (atonic seizures). Usually, children are relieved of the seizures as they grow older, in a matter of months or years. It is very hard to determine a true cause for petit mal seizures, and scientists are still investigating into the matter.

The Biological Cause of Petit Mal Seizures

Seizures are caused by abnormal and intense nerve cell (known as neuron) activity in the brain. Nerve cells communicate with one another through nerve impulses, which are electrical and chemical signals which pass from one neuron to another via a chemical junction, called the synapse. In people who experience seizures, this electricity activity is disrupted. In petit mal seizures in particular, the nerve impulses are fired onto the next neuron repetitively in a three-second pattern. This can be possibly caused by a variation in the level of neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that are released into the synapse to facilitate the conveyance of the nerve impulse.

Risk Factors for Petit Mal Seizures

As mentioned before, it’s not easy to determine the cause for petit mal seizures. However, doctors may associate absence seizures with the following:

  • Congenital (Birth) Brain Abnormalities
  • Kidney or Liver Disease
  • Head or spinal cord injuries resulting in brain injury, usually after head trauma or birth complications
  • Inherited Tendencies i.e. a family history of seizure predisposes the child to petit mal seizures
  • Epilepsy, as epileptic seizures are more likely to occur in growing children rather than adults

As an added note, oftentimes no neurologic or other kinds of disorders are found in children experiencing absence seizures. Even atypical petit mal seizures may or may not be associated with neurologic disorders.

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Possible Triggers of Petit Mal Seizures

Athletic individuals, who suffer from epilepsy, are at a higher risk of experiencing petit mal seizures while active. This is because hyperventilation, exhaustion and a higher body temperature collectively increase the risk of such seizures. In fact, clinically typical absence seizures are induced in about 90% of the patients by hyperventilation. Consumption of poisons like pesticides and insecticides are known to induce seizures, along with symptoms like vomiting, muscle weakness, loss of control over bowel movement or impaired vision. Since the changed levels of neurotransmitters causes petit mal seizures, use of alcohol and/or drugs can result in seizures—in fact, alcohol or alcohol withdrawal can cause an absence seizure within 48 hours. Consuming certain medications together has the same result.

Final words on risk factors and triggers of petit mal seizures

I hope this “How Likely Am I to Suffer Petit Mal Seizures?” article was helpful to you and you can better judge whether you or your child needs a medical check-up, and that you can prevent situations which can trigger petit mal seizures.

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