Typically, this type of seizure lasts between 10 and 30 seconds. The person, most often a child aged 5 to 15, abruptly stops whatever he's doing (talking, walking) and appears to "stare into space." Absence seizures rarely cause a true convulsion in which the person falls down or collapses. Despite briefly losing consciousness, the person recovers fully with no lingering confusion or other ill effects. In children, absence seizures may interfere with learning and are often misinterpreted as daydreaming or inattention. About a quarter of people who have absence seizures will develop another type of generalized seizure called tonic-clonic seizures (formerly called ''grand mal'' seizures).
The lifetime prevalence of seizures (the risk of having a non-febrile epileptic seizure at some point in an average lifetime) is between 2 and 5%. Evidence from community-based studies have shown that 70−80% of people with epilepsy will achieve remission, usually in the early course of the condition and indeed the longer epilepsy remains active the poorer the prognosis.