May also be called: Tonic-Clonic Seizure
A grand mal seizure can happen at any age. It's most commonly associated with epilepsy but can also be caused by low blood sugar, stroke, infections, traumatic head injuries, drug and alcohol withdrawal, and other underlying conditions. It can be a one-time or recurring event.
Often, an aura (vision, taste, smell, or sensory changes) will signal an oncoming seizure.
A grand mal seizure occurs in two phases and usually only lasts for a few minutes. First, loss of consciousness occurs. This is followed by convulsions, or violent muscle contractions. The person may also bite the cheek or tongue, lose bladder or bowel control, clench the teeth or jaw, or have a blue skin color.
Following the seizure, a person will probably be sleepy and confused with no memory of the event. A severe headache afterward is also common.
Anyone experiencing a grand mal seizure should seek medical help. Treatment will depend upon the cause and often includes the use of anti-seizure medications.
While medications can minimize the effects of seizures, living with chronic seizures can still be frightening and disruptive to daily life. Support groups and online forums are valuable resources for people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) NINDS offers research information related to neurological disorders.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Epilepsy Foundation Epilepsy Foundation has information on books, pamphlets, videos, and educational programs about seizure disorders. Call: (800) EFA-1000|
|Word! Seizure You might hear a seizure called a convulsion, fit, or spell.|
|Seizures Instruction Sheet Although seizures can be frightening, usually they last only a few minutes, stop on their own, and are almost never life-threatening. Find out what to do in this printer-friendly sheet.|
|When Blood Sugar Is Too Low Hypoglycemia is the medical word for low blood sugar level. It needs to be treated right away. Learn more about what to do when blood sugar is too low in this article for kids.|
|When Blood Sugar Is Too Low When blood glucose levels drop too low, it's called hypoglycemia. Very low blood sugar levels can cause severe symptoms that need to be treated right away.|
|Febrile Seizures Febrile seizures are full-body convulsions caused by high fevers that affect young kids. Although they can be frightening, they usually stop on their own and don't cause any other health problems.|
|Seizures Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Find out what you need to know about seizures and what to do if your child has one.|
|Brain and Nervous System The brain controls everything we do, and is often likened to the central computer within a vast, complicated communication network, working at lightning speed.|
|Babysitting: Dealing With Seizures What should you do if a child you're babysitting has a seizure? Our tip sheet can help you be prepared.|
|Stroke A stroke means that something has stopped the normal blood flow to the brain. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Strokes This "brain attack" happens when blood flow to the brain stops, even for a brief second. Signs and symptoms of strokes in kids are similar to those in adults.|
|Epilepsy It comes from a Greek word meaning "to hold or seize," and seizures are what happen to people with epilepsy. Learn more about epilepsy in this article written just for kids.|
|Epilepsy Epilepsy causes electrical signals in the brain to misfire, which can lead to multiple seizures over a period of time. Anyone can get epilepsy at any age, but the majority of new diagnoses are in kids.|
|Epilepsy Seizures are a common symptom of epilepsy, a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Learn all about epilepsy, including what to do if you see someone having a seizure.|
|Hypoglycemia When blood glucose levels drop too low, it's called hypoglycemia. Very low blood sugar levels can cause severe symptoms that require immediate treatment.|
|What Is Hypoglycemia? Lots of people wonder if they have hypoglycemia, but the condition is not common in teens. Get the facts on hypoglycemia.|
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