Grand mal seizures are characterized by violent muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness. The following HealthHearty article describes this condition with respect to the etiology in infants, children and adults, as well as the symptoms associated.
Grand mal seizures are also called tonic-clonic seizures, and are the result of abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. They are generally triggered by certain health related disorders like epilepsy, low blood sugar level or even a stroke. The episode lasts for about 1 to 3 minutes, and if it lasts for about 5 minutes, you must seek medical help immediately.
Epilepsy is the most common reason that leads to this condition. However, in infants, it can be triggered due to altered serum levels of glucose, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and sodium. Repetitive episodes may be attributed to genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome.
In children, grand mal seizures may occur due to meningitis and other nervous system infections, or as a side effect of certain medication. However, most of the time, they are idiopathic in nature.
In adults, the seizures generally indicate an underlying health concern like:
- Very low glucose, sodium, calcium or magnesium levels in the blood
- Head injury or trauma
- Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and drugs
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral hypoxia
- Cerebral hemangioma
- Genetic disorders
The symptoms are divided into two stages that have been discussed below:
Tonic Phase: The tonic phase is characterized by sudden contraction of muscles, and loss of consciousness, that leads to a fall. This phase lasts for about 10 to 20 seconds.
Clonic Phase: The clonic phase occurs when the muscles begin to contract and relax, in a rhythmic and alternate manner. This phase lasts for less than two minutes.
Other symptoms that may be manifested are as follows:
Aura: A person may sense a strange smell, or dread something unknown before they experience a grand mal seizure. Not all may experience this warning sign or aura before having a seizure.
Scream: You may see some people giving out a loud scream before losing consciousness. This is because the muscles around their vocal cords tend to get seized, which forces the air out of their mouth, resulting in a loud scream.
Loss of Bladder Control: During or after a seizure, some individuals may experience a loss of control over their bladder or bowel muscles.
Unresponsiveness: A patient may remain unconscious for several minutes after the episode, and may remain unresponsive for a few minutes, after regaining consciousness.
Confusion: A patient may get confused after coming out of a grand mal seizure. He may be disoriented, and this phase is called postictal confusion.
Fatigue: The patient may get fatigued, and feel very sleepy, after a mentally and physically draining seizure.
Severe Headache: Few patients generally tend to have a very severe headache after the episode.
What to do to Help a Person with Grand Mal Seizure
In case you witness a grand mal seizure in an individual, do not panic. The person may fall on the ground, and shake violently. You need to immediately call for medical help, and gently roll the person to his/her side. Then, take something soft like a pillow or towel, and place it under the person’s head. If the person is wearing a tie or a tight collar button, loosen it.
Many people think putting something in the mouth of the person may help. But, avoid doing so as the person may swallow the object, or bite and break it, causing injury. Do not try and restrain the person, since you may get injured yourself. Instead, see clear away items which the person may bang into. You can even check if the person is wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace, that may have emergency contact details.
Anti-seizure medication may be recommended depending on the underlying etiology, as well as the type, frequency, and duration of seizures. Therefore, a doctor is the only person who will help you to provide the correct treatment.
A grand mal seizure generally lasts for less than 5 minutes. If it continues for more than 5 minutes, or if the person experiences immediate, repetitive seizures, it is a sign of urgent medical emergency. If you witness someone having an episode, seek medical help immediately. Your promptness can help to save someone from major medical complications, or may even save a life.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.