Also known as petit mal, absence seizures are a type of epilepsy that mainly affects people under 20 years of age and especially women.
This common disorder in patients with epilepsy is the consequence of an alteration of the brain function, as a result of which a person does not fall or make any sudden movements, but instead disconnects from its surroundings for a few seconds, staying very still, staring at a single point in space, unresponsive to external stimuli. They are simply “absent”.
Once the individual regains consciousness, they are not aware that they had a seizure, they are not aware of what happened, and they resume the activity they were engaged in normally, completely oblivious to what happened during that brief period of time.
These absences may occur several times a day, and in some cases they can be triggered by a strong flash of light or hyperventilation (when a person breathes faster and deeper than normal), as stated by the Epilepsy Foundation.
This disease occurs mainly in children between 6 and 12 years of age, although it also affects older people but to a lesser extent. Due to its duration, which is usually about 15 seconds, it is often difficult to detect, for it can misleadingly be interpreted as a lack of attention. Weeks may go by before this condition is accurately diagnosed, with learning problems or difficulties at school being the most common leads that facilitate its detection.