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Childhood Absence Epilepsy


Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), also known as petit mal epilepsy or pyknolepsy, is characterized by a brief altered state of consciousness and staring episodes (absence seizures). The child may be unresponsive, then return to his or her activity unaware that anything has happened. The seizures often occur during exercise. This type of epilepsy can be inherited, and one-third of children with CAE have a family history or seizures. Seizures typically begin between ages 3 and 6 years.


Diagnosis involves a visit with an epilepsy doctor, a patient history, neurological exam, and other clinical tests, as well as neurodiagnostic testing such as EEG and MRI. The EEG will show a distinct three-per-second spike and wave pattern.


EEG of an absence seizure



The prognosis for CAE is good, and 60 percent of patients outgrow their seizures. Seizures are often controlled with anti-epileptic drugs, such as Zarontin® (ethosuximide), Depakene® (valproate), or Lamictal® (lamotrigine).

Drug information changes periodically. For the most updated information on drugs, visit www.drugs.com.

Last Update
July 2, 2012
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Last Update
July 2, 2012