Key Points About Absence Seizures
Absence seizures are seizures that generally last just a few seconds, and are characterized by a blank or absent stare.
Absence seizures usually occur in children between ages 4 to 14, but its possible to have an absence seizure at any age.
Absence seizures are easy to miss, but tests and an evaluation of symptoms can diagnose them.
Healthcare providers can usually help find the right mix of medications and lifestyle changes to manage absence seizures.
Without treatment, school performance, work, and relationships can suffer.
What Are 3 Causes Of Autism
Recognizing And Managing Epilepsy In Autism
If youre a parent or caretaker of someone with ASD, it is important to be aware of symptoms of epilepsy due to the high rate of comorbidity of these two disorders. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the signs and symptoms of seizures in children include:
- Jerking movements
- Stiffening of the body
- Losing control of the bowels or bladder
- Problems breathing
- Not responding to sounds or words
- Periods of blinking rapidly and staring
If you notice symptoms, seizures, or seizure-like activity, talk to your doctor. Treatment for epilepsy, such as the use of antiepileptic drugs, does not change if someone has ASD.
Read more about treating epilepsy.
How Are Seizures Diagnosed In A Child
The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. Youll be asked about other factors that may have caused your childs seizure, such as:
Recent fever or infection
Your child may also have:
A neurological exam
Blood tests to check for problems in blood sugar and other factors
Imaging tests of the brain, such as a magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scan
Electroencephalogram to test the electrical activity in your childs brain
Lumbar puncture to measure the pressure in the brain and spinal canal and test the cerebrospinal fluid for infection or other problems
Relationship Between Autism And Epilepsy
A number of studies in recent years have found links between epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder . Epilepsy has also been found to be more common in autistic children and ASD more prevalent in kids who have epilepsy.
Medical researchers have proposed that some of the brain abnormalities associated with ASD may also contribute to seizures. According to some research, electrical activity in the brains of children with autism show epileptic discharges more often than in people without ASD. Further, children with epilepsy are more likely to develop autistic traits.
Certain gene mutations or changes in DNA may increase the occurrence of both epilepsy and autism.
Also Check: How To Get An Autism Diagnosis For A Child
What Are Absence Seizures
An absence seizure causes you to blank out or stare into space for a few seconds. They can also be called petit mal seizures. Absence seizures are most common in children and typically dont cause any long-term problems. These types of seizures are often set off by a period of hyperventilation.
Absence seizures usually occur in children between ages 4 to 14. A child may have 10, 50, or even 100 absence seizures in a given day and they may go unnoticed. Most children who have typical absence seizures are otherwise normal. However, absence seizures can get in the way of learning and affect concentration at school. This is why prompt treatment is important.
Absence seizures are a type of epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures. Seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity. These mixed messages confuse your brain and cause a seizure.
Not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Usually, a diagnosis of epilepsy can be made after two or more seizures.
Absence seizures often occur along with other types of seizures that cause muscle jerking, twitching, and shaking. Absence seizures may be confused with other types of seizures. Doctors will pay close attention to your symptoms in order to make the right diagnosis. This is very important for effective and safe treatment of your seizures.
Its uncommon for absence seizures to continue into adulthood, but its possible to have an absence seizure at any age.
Could Epilepsy And Autism Share A Common Cause
In some cases, the causes of epilepsy and autism are well known. For example, some cases of epilepsy are clearly the result of brain injury, while some cases of autism are clearly the result of a genetic disorder. Many cases of both disorders, however, are idiopathicmeaning of unknown origin.
Research studies have explored the possibility that, in at least some cases, autism and epilepsy may have the same cause or causes. The outcomes suggest that the answer may be “yes,” and that both genetic and environmental causes could be implicated.
Several conditions caused by genomic copy number variation or mutations in single genes have been associated with both ASD and epilepsy. These include tuberous sclerosis, Rett Syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome, among others. There are a number of other theories related to genetic differences that seem to connect autism and epilepsy. The evidence is mounting that epilepsy and autism can be caused by the same genetic anomalies.
In addition to genetic factors, certain environmental factors seem to be associated with both autism and epilepsy. Just a few include:
- Air pollution and environmental toxins
- Intrauterine infection during pregnancy
- Neo-natal disorders such as jaundice
- Certain metabolic conditions
Recommended Reading: How To Heal Autism In 30 Days Book
Research: Is There A Link
Research shows that autistic people have a 20% risk of having epilepsy and that people with epilepsy have a 20% chance of being autistic. The reason for this may be that the effects of epilepsy and ASD on brain structure and function overlap.
Autistic people have demonstrated a variety of seizure types. About 2030% of autistic children develop epilepsy before reaching adulthood.
Various factors may explain this phenomenon. For instance, some research has found that electrical activity in the brains of autistic people displays epilepsy-type discharges than in people without the condition.
What Happens After An Absence Seizure Ends
Your child usually continues whatever they were doing before the seizure. Theyre usually able to think clearly and are wide awake. However, if more than one seizure happens close together, your child may look or act confused and lose their place in whats going on around them. For example, during the seizure, they may miss hearing instructions from teachers or what has been said in a conversation.
You May Like: Can You Stim And Not Be Autistic
Can Seizures Cause Intellectual Disability
There is a substantial percentage of individuals who have intellectual disabilities who have epilepsy most of the time, yet there are a great many people with intellectual disabilities who have it as well. This condition can also be considered disabling, chronic, and socially isolating. Seizure is still something that is stigmatized, regardless of how diagnosis has been made.
How Does Diagnosis Work
The way that a neurologist diagnoses seizures or epilepsy is the same whether or not the person is autistic. However, there are some characteristics associated with autism which can be confused with signs of seizures, such as staring or repetitive movements. If an autistic person stares without responding or does short, rhythmic movements which are unusual, it could be worth seeing a specialist to check whether they are having seizures. Even a slight concern should always be checked out. Before making a diagnosis of epilepsy, a neurologist will find out the cause of the seizures by doing some tests. This may include:
- an electroencephalogram during sleep
- an MRI
You May Like: Does Autism Worsen With Age
What Does An Absence Seizure Look Like
If your child experiences an absence seizure:
- They may look like they are staring off into space or have a blank stare. Your child has temporarily lost awareness of whats happening around them.
- They may suddenly stop all activity even in the middle of an activity and will not respond during the seizure. This is especially notable during school or when they are breathing heavily.
- Their eyes may turn upwards or their eyelids may flutter.
What Should Parents Look For
- It may be difficult to recognize seizure activity in ASD, because of the communication barriers and overlap of symptoms with frequent abnormal behaviors.
- For example, repetitive purposeless behaviors of autism can resemble automatisms seen in seizures.
- Cognitive delay, impaired social interactions, and aggressive and irritable behavior seen in children with epilepsy can also be seen with ASD, thus it is difficult to discern the cause.
- Red flags to note for seizures:
- Staring episodes
- Rhythmic shaking or twitching
- Loss of attention
You May Like: Can Autism Be Diagnosed In Adulthood
What Types Of Seizures Do Children With Autism Have
There is no single type of seizure clearly associated with autism. However, among the types of seizure worth noting are focal onset impaired awareness , absence, tonic-clonic, and atonic, among others.
Some seizures can be easily controlled but others are more severe. There is thought to be a higher mortality rate and rate of disease associated with seizures in ASD.
What Conditions Cause Autism
Recommended Reading: Behavioral Therapist For Autism
What You Can Do About Epilepsy
Most people with epilepsy take anti-epileptic drugs. These drugs control the electrical activity in the brain that causes seizures and often need to be taken for a lifetime. There are many anti-epileptic drugs and your doctor will prescribe one depending on the type of seizures you are experiencing.
Other treatment options include
What Is The Treatment For Epilepsy If You Are On The Autism Spectrum
The treatment for epilepsy in autistic people is no different from treatment in people who are not on the spectrum.
Antiepileptic drugs are prescribed to people with epilepsy. These medications work to lessen the severity of the seizures. They may also reduce the frequency.
Common epilepsy medications include:
Don’t Miss: What Age Can You Diagnose Autism
Autism And Epilepsy: Are Autistic Children At Higher Risk Of Seizures
The subject of autism and seizures is being asked about more and more by parents of children on the spectrum.
Exact figures vary from study to study, however, it is clear that the potential for epilepsy in people with autism spectrum disorder is high.
According to UK medical researcher Frank MC Besag, around 20% of people with ASD are at risk of epilepsy , and the risk of ASD in epilepsy is also high at around 20% .
Meanwhile, in the United States, data suggests around one third of children on the autism spectrum will also have epilepsy but only 4-5% of children with epilepsy will have ASD.
Could Epilepsy Cause Autism Or Vice Versa
While there is no obvious way that autism could cause epilepsy, there are several studies that suggest that epilepsy could be one cause of autism.
Severe epileptic seizures in infants and very young children can negatively impact the developing brain. If the seizures are treated surgically, the outcome is improved social behavior and higher IQ. One study is exploring the possibility that treatments to avoid seizures in high-risk infants with tuberous sclerosis could lower the likelihood of developing autism later in life.
One severe epilepsy disorder called Landau-Kleffner syndrome is known to cause developmental regression and autistic-like symptoms.
Read Also: Which Month Is Autism Awareness
Could Epilepsy Treatments Be Effective For Autism
One of the most frustrating aspects of autism is the reality that there are no drugs that seem to treat its core symptoms. As a result, autism is treated symptomatically with medications to reduce anxiety and improve attention, and with therapies to help build social communication skills. But if there is a strong correlation between epilepsy and autism, the possibility exists that epilepsy treatments could be effective for autism.
In addition to the study which is exploring the impact of preventing seizures in infants with tuberous sclerosis, other projects are underway. One study found that valproate, an anti-seizure medication, seemed to reduce irritability in young children with autism and epilepsy. Another study is looking at the impact of anti-seizure medications on autistic children who do not have obvious symptoms of epilepsy.
Adverse Effects Of Specific Aeds
When taking AEDs, it is common for individuals to experience one or more of the following:
- Neurological side-effects
- Behavioral side-effects
- Gastrointestinal side-effects
- Some AEDs can cause an allergic reaction, which can be severe in some cases.
Specific adverse effects are highly dependent on the medication. Overall, newer AEDs, such as Lamotrigine, Oxcarbazepine, Topiramate, and Levetiracetam, have fewer serious adverse effects than older AEDs Phenobarbitol, Phenytoin, Primidone, and Carbamazepine. The exception to this is Valproate, an older anti-epileptic medication that appears to have good efficacy for many individuals with ASD. Still, Valproate does have some severe side effects .
In general, it is best to avoid older AEDs . They have a high incidence of cognitive and neurological adverse effects, which can exacerbate existing behavioral and cognitive abnormalities.
You can avoid serious side effects with careful monitoring. For this reason, it is best to have an experienced practitioner prescribe AED medications and monitor the patient. Particular care should be taken when using multiple AEDs as adverse effects can be cumulative. Since many AEDs elevate the risk of congenital disabilities, it is important to carefully consider the choice of AEDs in females of childbearing age.
- Once the doctor determines a stable dose, they will begin monitoring your child approximately every three months.
Read Also: How To Deal With Kids With Autism
What Is Epilepsy What Are Seizures
Seizures are the result of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells. Common symptoms of a seizure include involuntary stiffening or jerking of muscles, confusion, loss of consciousness, and unusual thoughts or sensations.
Experiencing unpredictable seizures may be an indication of Epilepsy. This common neurological disorder may be diagnosed if the individual has at least two unprovoked seizures. The qualifier unprovoked means that the seizure is not caused by a known event like a head injury, medication reaction, or high fever.
Treatment Options For Seizures
Seizures are most commonly treated with anti-epileptic drugs , but non-AED treatments are also available. If a specific genetic or metabolic syndrome is associated with seizures in a child with ASD, there may be a specific treatment for that underlying condition. However, for the most part, AEDs are necessary to control seizureseven in children where an underlying genetic or metabolic disorder has been identified.
Below you will find information about AED, non-AED, and emergency treatment options for seizures.
Recommended Reading: Does Watching Tv Cause Autism
How Is Epilepsy Diagnosed If You Are On The Autism Spectrum
Epilepsy is typically diagnosed after a person has two or more unprovoked seizures. Unprovoked means the seizures were not the result of an obvious issue, such as a high fever or head injury.
Doctors may also use an electroencephalogram to see electrical activity in the brain. They can look for evidence of epileptic brain activity. This device can record what happens in the brain during a seizure, too.
There is no special diagnosis for epilepsy if you are on the autism spectrum. It will be diagnosed the same way it would be in a person who is not on the spectrum.
Silently Seizing: Common Unrecognized And Frequently Missed Seizures And Their Potentially Damaging Impact On Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Up to 30% of all children have undiagnosed seizure disorders, to a great extent because they are difficult to diagnose and due to a lack of awareness and understanding. Caren Haines, with renowned behavioral child neurologist Nancy Minshew, MD, is determined to change that. At age two, author Caren Haines son was diagnosed with autism. By the time he was 12, his diagnosis didnt account for his uncontrollable aggression, the acrid smells that lingered in his mind and the odd voices that screamed at him from inside his head. By the time he was 18, his out-of-control behavior mirrored a mood disorder with psychotic features.
Don’t Miss: How To Cut Hair Of Autistic Child
Seizures In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Is it common for children with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism to have epileptic seizures? What signs should parents look for if they think their child may be having mild seizures?
- Regression in normal development
- Unexplained staring spells
- Absence seizures can be difficult to recognize. Also known as petit mal seizures, they are marked by periods of unresponsiveness. The child may stare into space. He may or may not exhibit jerking or twitching.
- Atonic seizures involve sudden limpness, or loss of muscle tone. The child may fall or drop her head involuntarily.
- Clonic seizures involve repeated jerking movements on both sides of the body.
- Myoclonic seizures involve jerking or twitching of the upper body, arms or legs.
- Tonic seizures involve muscle stiffening alone.
- Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common. Also known as gran mal seizures, they produce muscle stiffening followed by jerking. Gran mal seizures also produce loss of consciousness.
More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s: