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What Are the Symptoms of Petit Mal Seizures?

Petit mal seizures, also known as absence seizures, are a type of generalized seizure experienced by people with epilepsy, in which uncontrolled electric currents affect both hemispheres of the brain. Because petit mal seizures are so fleeting and subtle, they may go unnoticed for a long time before they are diagnosed.


Petit mal seizures are extremely brief, typically lasting anywhere from two to 15 seconds.

Signs of Petit Mal Seizures

  • To a casual observer, the symptoms of a petit mal seizure may seem rather curious. The person having the seizure may stare blankly, blink, chew or pick at their clothing. Often, they’ll stop talking mid-sentence or cease what they were doing, only to pick up where they left off when the seizure ends.

Symptoms of Petit Mal Seizures

  • Petit mal seizures come on without warning. Someone who experiences a petit mal seizure usually has no recollection that it happened and notes no symptoms other than those observed by others.

Petit Mal in Children

  • Because petit mal seizures can happen numerous times a day, they can compromise a child’s education. Educators often misdiagnose children who have petit mal seizures as having behavior problems or attentional difficulties until doctors make an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing Petit Mal Seizures

  • In addition to a physical, neurological and behavioral exam, the most common way to diagnose the type of epilepsy that causes petit mal seizures is through an electroencephalogram (EEG). The EEG records brain wave activity through electrodes that are placed on a patient’s scalp.


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  1. petit mal seizures may be brief but that is a lot of time for the person suffering from them… imagine missing 15 seconds many times in class

    • Or far worse, playing in the road or swimming….

  2. I think a parent or teacher would have to care a lot to detect petit mal seizures. Unfortunately I think in these busy times with less moral values children are more likely to be scolded.

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