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What you Need to Know about Grand Mal Seizures

There are several different types of seizures, including grand mal seizures. Grand mal seizures, also known as generalized tonic-clonic seizures, include a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. Though this is the type of seizure most people picture when they think of seizures, it’s not common for a person with epilepsy to have a grand mal seizure more than once.

Do Grand Mal Seizures Have Symptoms?

Much like other types of seizures, grand mal seizures do have symptoms, but they don’t occur in all people.The most common symptoms include:

  • Screaming – The muscles around the vocal cords might seize before a seizure occurs, causing the person scream.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control – This often happens during or after a seizure.
  • Confusion – Feeling disoriented, or postictal confusion, happens after a seizure.
  • Aura – Some people experience an aura before a grand mal seizure. This varies from person to person, but usually includes a feeling of dread, a strange smell, or numbness.

What are the Phases of Grand Mal Seizures?

Grand mal seizures are different than other types of seizures because they occur in two stages:

  • Tonic Phase – This phase, which lasts 10 to 20 seconds, includes a loss of consciousness, muscle contractions, and the person often falls down.
  • Clonic Phase – The muscles go into rhythmic contractions, alternately flexing and relaxing. The clonic phase lasts around two minutes.

Causes of Grand Mal Seizures

Grand mal seizures occur when the electrical activity over the whole surface of the brain becomes abnormally synchronized. Though the exact cause of grand mal seizures is unknown, grand mal seizures can be caused by:

  • Traumatic head injuries
  • Stroke
  • Blood vessel malformations in the brain
  • Genetic disorders
  • Tumors
  • Very low blood levels of glucose, sodium, calcium or magnesium

Contact 911 immediately if a grand mal seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if it is immediately followed by a second seizure. To find out more about seizures or to seek treatment for seizures, contact our office at (330) 665-4100.