Grand mal seizure

A grand mal seizure is characterized by unconsciousness and convulsions that typically involve all parts of the body. The seizure will occur in stages with unconsciousness coming first and the convulsions beginning after.

The cause of a grand mal seizure is an abnormal electrical activity in the brain and this is the reason that the seizure involves all parts of the body. Typically it is a large area of the brain that is affected by the electrical activity.

Epilepsy is often thought of as the only reason for a grand mal seizure, but it is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. A seizure of this type can occur when there is kidney failure or very low blood sugar and there are risk factors for the condition. To be officially diagnosed with epilepsy, there must have been at least two grand mal seizures.

The loss of consciousness and convulsions are present in every patient, but there are other symptoms that can occur as well that are not necessarily present in every patient who has had a seizure. Some patients can sense when they are about to have a seizure, but this is not present in everyone. Some patients may lose control of their bladder and bowel, may be unresponsive after the seizure, feel confusion after the seizure, be fatigued after the seizure or have a severe headache. Not every patient will experience these symptoms.

The causes of a grand mal seizure are the abnormal electrical activity in an area of the brain that is large. However, there are some causes for that abnormal activity in some of the cases. It should be noted that there is no known cause in about half of the cases of a grand mal seizure. The known causes are low blood glucose, sodium, magnesium and calcium, traumatic injuries to the head, alcohol or drug withdrawal, meningitis or encephalitis, tumors of the brain or a malformation of the brain and strokes.
There are also certain risk factors that make the chances of a grand mal seizure more likely. A family history of seizures and seizure disorders, previous injuries to the brain from stroke or infection, medical conditions that affect the electrolytes in the body, drug use and very heavy alcohol use.

If you see someone who is having a grand mal seizure, there are a few things that you should do. Remember, the person who is having the seizure is unconscious and cannot respond to you in any way. You should call for help immediately and roll the person onto their side. Put something soft under the head to avoid injury to the head and loosen any clothing that is tight around the neck. Many people try to help the person avoid swallowing their tongue, but the tongue cannot be swallowed and you should not put anything in the mouth. Do not try and restrain the person who is having a grand mal seizure.

It is important that medical attention be gotten as quickly as possible. The grand mal seizure that lasts for longer than five minutes can result in permanent damage to the brain and even death. A second seizure immediately following the first can also result in brain damage or death.

Once medical attention is found, the doctor will need as detailed a description of the seizure as possible to help make a diagnosis and find the likely cause of the seizure. This description will have to come from those around the patient when they had their seizure.

There are blood tests that can be performed to determine if there are underlying medical conditions that are responsible for the seizure and there will likely be a neurological test to determine the damage that may have occurred during the grand mal seizure.

Last updated on Jul 22nd, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

5 Responses for “Grand mal seizure”

  1. Alice says:

    I have been dealing with grand mal seizures and front lobal seizures since a brain injury in 2002…….these seizures i have control my life…….even taking seizure meds……it would be so nice if meds didnt make me so sleepy and dizzy…….so one could function accorcdinly as i should. …

    • Tamra Dragoo says:

      Hey, how are you…I am a student at National College in Lexington ky, and I am doing a paper and presentation on Grand Mal Seizures, is there any way you would be able to give me a little info on your battle with the seizures …

      Thank you ,
      Tamra Dragoo

      • Lisa Walker says:

        I am very perplexed about grand mal seizures since I had one. I was taking a lot of ambien and xanax (which furthered me into rehab for 30 days for withdrawal) and had gone cold turkey off of the meds. The grand mal happened about the 3rd day of withdrawal and I was shaking all day and right before it happened I was confused as I was at my kids 25th bday party. Their was a band and kids jumping on trampolines and I just stared and felt like so much going on around me. The last thing I remember is talking to my sons girlfriend in the front yard with about 25 bystanders, and she said I dropped to my knees with my snowcone still in hand, and lowered by chin and my eyes rolled back in my head. She laid me flat on my back and the rhythmic rolling of a tonic clonic seizure started. I was foaming at the mouth and wet myself. She ran and got one of the band members who was a paramedic to open my mouth as I was turning blue. He pulled my tongue forward and I took a great gasp of breath. when the paramedics arrived they gave me oxygen and started an IV in me. They stood me up where upon I pushed up my sleeve and pulled the IV out of my arm, thus a lot of blood. I have not memory of any of this. They then laid me on a stretcher with a new IV and said that I was thrashing my arms about, I assume the brain does this as a last defense mechanism albeit I was unconscious.

        I continued to thrash in the ambulance and they restrained my arms. When I finally started to come to, I estimate it to be around 25 minutes, I was in the ER room and I heard someone yelling into my face, it was the paramedic. I heard his voice but all was black. I slowly turned my eyes towards his face then at the bloody IV on my arm. I was very confused. He kept asking me questions but I had no idea or memory of what had happened.

        I was told later that when I was told to squeeze someones hand if they heard me I would correctly squeeze their hand, Again no memory. I haven’t been quite right since then, my memory (short term) seems to be gone. I have often wondered if this seizure, because it lasted so long, affected my brain. I’m not able to even organize my day in any way and am quite confused most of the time.

        Is this normal??
        Lisa Walker

    • Michael says:

      Hi there my mother is currently in Antrim hospital suffer from these symptoms but they are very violent at times but the top professionals are suspecting that it is in ‘her head’ and many more like it in her word but my mother suffers from sore heads, weakness, numbness such as the effects in a Generalized seizure but does anyone know how these are caused and why they start even when there is no medical history of this in the family ?

      If any1 has answers please get back to me on

      i would be very grateful and happy to hear from any1 at all with any answers 🙂

  2. caroline gebers says:

    My mother had 3 grand mal seizures due to a blood clot that was brought on because of food poisoning (she threw up so much & so often, the blood rushed through her veins & caused a clot…at least this is what I have been told). It has been 14 years, and she still acts like she is a child- a result of the effects of brain damage. She still has short term & long term memory loss, & she is stuck in aa victim mode (feels like the world is out to get her, depression). It is very difficult to talk to her about any of this because she is in denial, has emotional outbursts , and is very defensive. It is hard to help someone who is not willing to help themself. If ANYBODY has any sort of advice for me, please reply or email me at This situation has already paid a large toll on my life, and now that I am an adult, and I have a family of my own, I would really like to find a solution before it’s too late. I want my mom to make it to my son’s graduation, but she refuses to take care of herself and refuses to admit that she doesn’t take care of herself or that anything is wrong. Please help me out! This whole thing has gotten very tiring over the years.

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