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. These "spells" may occur infrequently or several times per hour. 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 vast majority of children, however, will outgrow them.
The standardized mortality rates (mortality rate compared with the general population on an age-adjusted basis) in epilepsy are 2 to 4 times higher than normal and are highest in the first 10 years after diagnosis, more so in the first year after diagnosis. Factors associated with a higher mortality include: male gender, extremes of age44, marital status (single) and epilepsy symptomatic of diffuse or focal cerebral disease.