Medical Definition of Petit mal

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Petit mal: A form of epilepsy with very brief, unannounced lapses in consciousness. A petit mal seizure involves a brief loss of awareness, which can be accompanied by blinking or mouth twitching. Petit mal seizures have a very characteristic appearance on an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Petit mal (little illness in French) seizures are also known as absence seizures. Petit mal seizures take the form of a staring spell: the person suddenly seems to be "absent."

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If you have had a seizure, it means you have epilepsy. See Answer

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018