What are grand mal seizures?

Grand mal seizures, or generalized tonic-clonic seizures, are seizures that involve muscle contractions, muscle rigidity, and loss of consciousness. These seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Grand mal seizures affect the entire body, and may happen just once or multiple times (as in the case of epilepsy). The cause of grand mal seizures may not be immediately recognized, if ever. Treatable medical conditions that may be responsible for grand mal seizures include electrolyte imbalance, illicit drug use, brain tumor, meningitis, head trauma, and many others.

Grand mal seizures tend to follow a pattern of symptoms that can become recognizable. The seizure often starts with an aura, or a change in sensation characterized by hallucinations, dizziness, and abnormal sights, smells, tastes or feelings. The aura is followed by loss of consciousness, a contraction of all the muscles (tonic phase), and then rhythmic muscle spasms (clonic phase). Grand mal seizures often last for several minutes.

Usually, people recover from a grand mal seizure feeling mild confusion, weakness, and tiredness. Grand mal seizures are marked by amnesia (memory loss), so that the person who has the seizure does not remember what happened. While the seizure itself generally does not cause permanent damage, it is possible for injury to result during the seizure.

Grand mal seizures are generally controlled with medications, surgery, or electrical stimulation. A single grand mal seizure often does not require treatment, although prompt medical evaluation is imperative. For patients with recurrent seizures, or epilepsy, many different types of treatments are available.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for any seizure, as prompt medical treatment may reduce the risk and severity of future seizures


What are the symptoms of grand mal seizures?

Symptoms of grand mal seizures are related to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, and include auras, muscle rigidity, and muscle spasms.

Aura symptoms of grand mal seizures

The aura is the initial phase of a grand mal seizure and may be marked by:


What causes grand mal seizures?

Grand mal seizures may occur just once or, if they recur, may be an indication of epilepsy. All seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which may be a result of injury, illness, a genetic condition, or may have no known cause. In patients with epilepsy, a grand mal seizure may arise from a trigger, such as mental or physical Read more about grand mal seizurescauses


How are grand mal seizures treated?

A single grand mal seizure generally does not require treatment, but prompt medical attention should be obtained to ensure that epilepsy does not develop. For recurrent grand mal seizures, there are generally three treatments used: medication, surgery, and electrical stimulation. Other treatments may help you cope with the complications of grand mal seizures.

Common treatments... Read more about grand mal seizurestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves