Absence seizures can appear to observers as though the child is daydreaming or switching off, something we all do when our mind is wandering. Because absence seizures may be hard to distinguish from the child’s usual behavior, they may be difficult to detect. They can occur many times a day and are often mistaken for daydreaming.
In Doose syndrome, absence seizures occur in more than one-half of the cases. These absence seizures often accompany myoclonic seizures, especially clusters of myoclonic and / or myoclonic-atonic seizures. If these seizures occur frequently throughout the day, they can interrupt the child’s ability to function properly because his/her awareness (and the brain’s processing) is being constantly interrupted.
Like all of the generalized seizures, an absence seizure starts suddenly and without warning. The child displays a glazed look and stares. Sometimes there is mild twitching of the mouth, eye blinking, or barely noticeable head bobbing which may give the observer a clue that seizure activity is occurring. The event usually lasts only seconds, sometimes 15-30 seconds or perhaps longer, and ends just as abruptly as it started. These events may be so brief that they are observable only on the EEG. When the seizure ends, the child is immediately alert and there is no confusion afterward. However, the child will have missed some of what is happening around him/her.
As is the case with all generalized seizures, the child is momentarily unconscious during the event so he/she doesn’t know what is happening, cannot recall anything, is unresponsive and no level arousal will bring them around until the seizure is finished.