Women intending on getting pregnant should not use Valproic acid to control their absence or petit mal seizures
It is important to go for diagnostic testing if you feel your child is experiencing absence seizures or petit mal seizures. Sometime children who truly are inattentive are mistaken for having these seizures. The difference is that a child who is truly experiencing these seizures cannot be snapped out of it. They won't come out of one of these seizures just because you call their name, or yell at them to pay attention.
Diagnostic testing for absence seizures
Physical and medical history detailing the symptoms and type of seizure being experienced.
Blood tests are ordered to determine if some kind of chemical imbalance is causing the petit mal seizures.
This test is a painless test that measures the electrical activity of the brain. The doctor will place electrodes on the scalp with a paste and an elastic cap. These electrodes will transfer the brain wave activity to the EEG machine for a reading. Your child may be asked to evoke a seizure since seizures will display abnormal brain wave activities. To do this the child might be shown how to hyperventilate or asked to look at flickering lights.
Other tests that might be used consist of brain imaging devises such as an MRI - magnetic resonance imaging. This test will take pictures of the brain and will show if there are any tumors, or if a stroke has occurred.
Do not be alarmed, the doctor is only making sure that nothing more serious than the petit mal seizure has occurred The only issue is that your child has to be completely still for this test; which may become an issue. Don't be afraid to ask the doctor to give your child a sedative if you think it will be a problem for the child to stay still long enough to have the test done.
Drugs and medications
There are many drugs on the market today that can quell the seizures. However, finding the right one is not always easy. Even if the drug does not seem to be working, take it until you report to your doctor. The doctor will determine if the drug needs to be adjusted, or if the drug must be changed for another one. This period of uncertainty is pretty hard on a parent but once the right medication is found it becomes a lot easier.
The first drug prescribed is usually ethosuximide (Zarontin). Depakene (valproic acid) and Lamictal (lamotrigine) will also control seizures. Doctors will start with the lowest dosage and increase as needed. Normally, if a child has been seizure free for two years the doctor will then discontinue the medication.
A precautionary note. If the person who is having the petit mal seizures happens to be an adult female, and is trying to conceive, she must notify her doctor immediately. Valproic acid puts the woman at risk for complications during the pregnancy. Women should also advise their doctor if they are unable to get their seizures under control when they are on any prescribed medication.
It might be a good idea for an adult or child to wear a medical bracelet. Also, parents should tell all the people who have direct contact with the child about the absence seizures and what to do when they occur. The school will need to have a record of it as well. There will be certain activities such as sports that could be dangerous if the child has a petit mal seizure.
Living with the constant threat of a possible seizure is worrisome. Children may even feel embarrassed when they have a seizure, or feel left out, or different, when they cannot participate in certain activities along with their peers.
Adults may not be allowed to drive in certain states even if a long period has gone by and they remain seizure free.
Support groups are helpful. Parents of children who have these seizures and adults who have them, can ease their stress and uncertainty about life by listening to what others are going through. They may even learn some valuable coping skills from such a group. You can visit the epilepsy org web site for further information or ask your doctor for a local support group in your area.