What's a grand mal seizure?
A grand mal seizure is a seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness. The condition is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the nerve cells of the brain. Grand mal seizures seizures (also called generalized tonic-clonic) are the type of seizure that most people associate with the term "seizure," convulsion, or epilepsy. They may occur in people of any age, as a single episode or as
a repeated, chronic condition (epilepsy). The majority of seizures that do occur as just a single episode are grand mal seizures rather than other types.
Generalized seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity at multiple locations in the brain and/or over a large area of the brain. This results in loss of consciousness and body stiffening, which is followed by shaking of the arms and legs. A typical grand mal seizure starts with a loss of consciousness and falling down. This is followed by a 15- to 20-second period with muscle rigidity (tonic phase) and then a one- to two-minute period of violent, rhythmic convulsions (clonic phase). During a grand mal seizure, you may take on a dusky appearance, resulting from decreased blood oxygen levels due to impaired breathing during the seizure.
Most grand mal seizures last from one to two minutes. After the seizure, you may experience a headache and drowsiness or confusion. In most cases, seizures seem to occur randomly. But in rare cases, stimulation by light, sound, touch or reading can trigger a seizure in susceptible people. Sleep deprivation and excessive alcohol use also may trigger seizures. Abnormal electrical activity may start in one part of the brain and cause isolated symptoms (see partial seizures). Sometimes this abnormal electrical activity spreads through the brain, resulting in a generalized seizure. Seizures can be caused by a specific area of the brain that is injured or inflamed, or they can be due to stress on the brain from a more widespread systemic process, such as severely low blood sugar.
Diagnosis of a grand mal seizure is based on the symptoms and excluding other medical problems that can look like a seizure (such as heart arrythmia). A neuromuscular examination may or may not reveal neurologic deficits (decreases in brain functions) when the person is not actively having seizures. An EEG may show characteristic changes and in some cases may show the focus (location of the cause of the seizure). An EEG can be normal in between seizures and a normal EEG does not rule out a seizure disorder.
Many medications can effectively reduce or eliminate the number of seizures for some people. Finding the right medication and dosage can be complex. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex (Depakote), gabapentin (Neurontin), phenobarbital, ethosuximide (Zarontin), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), primidone (Mysoline), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), lamotrigine (Lamictal), topiramate (Topamax), felbamate (Felbatol) and tiagabine (Gabitril). Seizure medications are associated with birth defects.
For seizure disorders that don't respond well to medications, surgery may be an option if the seizures are localized to a particular part of the brain and that part of the brain can be removed without serious consequences. Surgery may also be effective if the cause of seizures is a tumor or malformation of the brain. In children who don't seem to have a focal point to their seizures and who regularly fall to the ground during their seizures, surgery to split the tissue that connects the brain's two hemispheres — called the corpus callosum — may dramatically reduce "drop seizures" without adversely affecting the brain's other functions.
More information on epilepsy (seizures)
What is epilepsy? - Epilepsy is a general term that includes various types of seizures. Epilepsy is characterized by unprovoked, recurring seizures that disrupt the nervous system.
What are seizures? - Seizures (or convulsions) are temporary alterations in brain functions due to abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells that present with apparent clinical symptoms and findings.
What types of seizures are there? - The two main categories of seizures include partial seizures and generalized seizures. A partial seizure can evolve to a generalized seizure.
What types of epilepsy are there? - There are several types of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be divided into two broad categories: idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy.
What're the common types of epilepsy? - The most common types of epilepsy are absence epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy, frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
What causes epilepsy? - Epilepsy may be caused by a number of unrelated conditions, including damage resulting from high fever, stroke, toxicity, or electrolyte imbalances.
What causes children epilepsy? - There are many possible causes of epilepsy in children. Seizures in infants and children may be due to birth defects, difficulties during delivery, or poisoning.
What factors will trigger epilepsy? - The triggers of epilepsy include inadequate sleep, food allergies, alcohol and smoking, flashing lights, developmental anomalies, and brain tumours.
What're the symptoms of epilepsy? - There are many forms of epilepsy, each with its own characteristic symptoms. The basic symptom of epilepsy is a brief and abnormal phase of behavior.
How is epilepsy diagnosed? - Making an accurate diagnosis is vital in planning the correct treatment to control seizures. Taking a medical history can help rule out non-epilepsy conditions.
What're the treatments for epilepsy? - For most people with epilepsy, treatment can reduce or prevent seizures and allow many patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives.
What epilepsy medications are available? - Epilepsy is often treated with medication, neurocybernetic prostheses. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin, carbamazepine, divalproex.
What epilepsy surgeries are available? - Surgical techniques to remove injured brain tissue may be appropriate for many patients with epilepsy. The most common surgery for epilepsy is temporal lobectomy.
What is vagus nerve stimulation? - Vagus nerve stimulation is a recently developed form of seizure control which uses an implanted electrical device.
What epilepsy diet is suggested? - It is believe that a restricted caloric intake while on a balanced diet can lead to measurable seizure reduction among all age groups.
How to prevent epilepsy? - Effective actions for the prevention of epilepsy include adequate pre-natal and post-natal care, safe delivery, control of fever in children, control of parasitic diseases.
Epilepsy in children - Epilepsy is a common childhood disorder. The prospect of control by means of anti-epileptic drugs is good in most children with epilepsy.
Pregnancy and epilepsy - Women with epilepsy who become pregnant have a higher risk for complications than women who don't have epilepsy.
Difference between seizures and epilepsy - Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce a sudden burst of electrical energy.
What's a grand mal seizure? - A grand mal seizure is a seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness.
What's absence seizure (petit mal seizure)? - Absence seizure e - also known as petit mal seizure - is a type of seizure that most often occurs in children.
What is a febrile seizure? - A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child triggered by a fever. A febrile seizure may be as mild as the child's eyes rolling or limbs stiffening.
What are epileptic seizures? - An epileptic seizure, often referred to as a fit, occurs when there is an abnormal discharge of neurones in the brain.
What is status epilepticus? - Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure state. Status epilepticus is most often caused by not taking anticonvulsant medication as prescribed.
What causes seizures? - Seizures may be caused by many conditions, diseases, injuries, and other factors. Injuries that may cause seizures include choking, head injury.