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Childhood Absence Epilepsy: Will My Daughter Inherit It From Me?

I have written previously about my seizure disorder and how I have absence seizures. One of my greatest hopes it that my children will not inherit this condition from me. Unfortunately, my daughter is going to be tested for absence seizures this August.

What is childhood absence epilepsy?

Why are my husband, pediatrician and I are concerned that my daughter might have absence seizures? The Epilepsy Foundation lists the following as signs for childhood absence epilepsy:1

  • The child stares blankly and is not aware or responsive during an absence seizure.
  • The child's eyes may roll up or the eyes may blink.
  • Some children may have repetitive movements like mouth chewing.
  • Each seizure lasts about 10 to 20 seconds and ends abruptly. The child resumes normal activity right after the seizure and often doesn't know that a seizure happened.
  • Typically, children have multiple absence seizures in a day before treatment is started.
  • Children usually have normal development, though children with very frequent absence seizures can have learning or memory problems. Some children also have attention and concentration difficulties.

Seeing signs of absence seizures

When my daughter was about 17 months old, several months ago, she became very ill. My daughter had a horrible case of the stomach flu. Ultimately, we ended up needing to take her to the hospital. Fluids were desperately needed and her vomiting needed to get under control.

Two days after her hospital visit, we were able to see my daughter's pediatrician. During these 2 days my husband and I noticed her staring off. She would look but not seem to register what she was seeing. These episodes were brief but consistent. Sometimes she would stare off and then when she was done, she would start to cry. It was horrible for us as her parents to not be able to do anything for her except hold her during the times she would start crying.

Preparing for her first children's neurologist appointment

Fast forward to the pediatrician appointment. We go to Agave Pediatrics, and they are such a wonderful clinic. All their providers truly care for their patients. While she was being examined, my daughter's pediatrician witnessed the event I was describing. My daughter's pediatrician ended up helping us schedule an appointment with a children's neurologist. Like most neurologist there tends to be a long wait once you attempt to schedule an appointment. Unfortunately, my daughter's appointment with the neurologist is still 1 month away.

Recording her episodes on video

When scheduling her appointment and describing why we felt she needed to see a neurologist the clinic had a request.They asked that my husband and I record the episodes as often as possible. They explained uploading these videos to her portal would help have a better understanding of what my husband and I were observing.

Over the past 5 months my husband and I have been trying to record her episodes on video. However, her episodes are very brief, similar to absence seizures. We have about a 5-to-10-second window to record her behavior. To compensate for not being able to record her episodes, we approached her moments in another way. My husband and I started to document the days and times she has had these episodes. Our records have brought us much relief. Over the past 5 months her episodes went from several times a day to a couple of times a week.

Does she have hereditary epilepsy?

Ideally, my daughter does not have a seizure disorder and there is another reason for her episodes. However, if she does have a seizure disorder, at least we will be prepared and can help her adjust now instead of when she is older.

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