Childhood Absence Epilepsy

What Is 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).

Childhood Absence Epilepsy Symptoms

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.

Childhood Absence Epilepsy Diagnosis

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.

Normal EEG Awake compared to Absence Seizure

Childhood Absence Epilepsy Treatment

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