In this report, we review the pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments of the different absence seizure types as recently recognized by the International League Against Epilepsy: typical absences, atypical absences, myoclonic absences, and eyelid myoclonia with absences. Overall, valproate and ethosuximide remain the principal anti-absence drugs. Typical absence seizures exhibit a specific electroclinical semiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacological response profile. A large-scale comparative study has recently confirmed the key role of ethosuximide in the treatment of childhood absence epilepsy, more than 50 years after its introduction. No new antiepileptic drug has proven major efficacy against typical absences. Of the medications under development, brivaracetam might be an efficacious anti-absence drug. Some experimental drugs also show efficacy in animal models of typical absence seizures. The treatment of other absence seizure types is not supported with a high level of evidence. Rufinamide appears to be the most promising new antiepileptic drug for atypical absences and possibly for myoclonic absences. The efficacy of vagal nerve stimulation should be further evaluated for atypical absences. Levetiracetam appears to display a particular efficacy in eyelid myoclonia with absences. Finally, it is important to remember that the majority of antiepileptic drugs, whether they be old or new, may aggravate typical and atypical absence seizures.
Keywords: antiepileptic drug; atypical absence; eyelid myoclonia with absence; myoclonic absence; typical absence.