Dravet syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy with seizures starting in infancy.

Seizures in Dravet syndrome usually are tonic-clonic, characterized by muscle jerks or other body movements. They may affect the whole body (grand-mal seizures) or only one side of the body (hemiclonic seizures). Myoclonic (brief jerking or twitching of muscles) and absence seizures also occur in Dravet syndrome. The term status epilepticus describes seizures that last five minutes or longer. They are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

What are absence seizures?

Absence seizures are generalized onset seizures, which means they start in both sides of the brain. They are also known as petit-mal seizures. During an absence seizure, people blink and stare for a few seconds. They do not speak, listen, nor are they able to notice anything. Fluttering of the eyelids is sometimes seen in absence seizures. Once the absence seizure is over, the patient usually has no memory of the incident. There are two different types of absence seizures: typical absence seizures and atypical absence seizures.

Typical absence seizures usually last less than 10 seconds. They are so short they easily can be missed.

Atypical absence seizures last a bit longer, up to 20 seconds or more, and have a longer on- and offset than typical absence seizures. In addition to staring and a blank look, individuals also show a change in muscle tone and movement. Atypical absence seizures might be accompanied by lip smacking, chewing motions, and finger rubbing or other hand movements.

In Dravet syndrome patients, atypical absence seizures usually occur after two years of age two. Typical absence seizures are more unusual.

Absence seizure management

Absence seizures are quite mild compared to other types of seizures in Dravet syndrome that can last up to 30 minutes or more. A single absence seizure does not require any medical attention.

Similar to other types of seizures in Dravet syndrome, the frequency of absence seizures can be reduced by anticonvulsants.

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