Grand mal seizures are also called tonic-clonic seizures. A tonic phase is when a person stiffens and falls. The clonic phase is when the spasms begin. They are the most dramatic and frightening type of seizure for anyone to witness, let alone go through.
Not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. They can also be caused by anything from bad reactions to medications to brain tumors. The first grand mal seizure a person suffers from should be considered a medical emergency. Call an ambulance immediately. Although it is possible that a person receiving treatment may never again have a grand mal they still may be prone to other kinds of seizures.
Some patients with a history of seizures feel an aura or a warning briefly before the seizure begins. Most of the time a grand mal comes as a bolt from the blue and goes away after less than three minutes. In that time, the person stiffens like a piece of granite, falls over and then begins uncontrollable muscle spasms. The person may foam at the mouth, roll eyes up into the head, make strange noises and lose control of bladder or bowels. Afterwards, the person is often tired and confused.
WARNING: Any grand mal seizure over five minutes long is a medical emergency! The patient is now at risk for brain damage and death. Call an ambulance immediately.
Grand mal seizures are caused when the electrical activity in the brain begins to fire incorrectly and at too high a level. If this abnormal electrical activity occurs throughout the brain, a grand mal seizure results.
Physicians are not certain of all of the causes of a grand mal seizure. However, some causes of the condition are fairly well established.
An injury or problem in the brain itself may lead to a grand mal seizure. For instance, a brain infection such as encephalitis or meningitis may disrupt the brain’s electrical activity causing a grand mal seizure. Brain tumors may also cause a seizure, and strokes will often damage large portions of the brain resulting in grand mal seizures. Any traumatic injury to the brain may cause seizures as well.
Conditions that disturb the chemical balance of the body often result in grand mal seizures. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to blood sugar being either too high or too low. If either occurs, it may cause a grand mal seizure. Low levels of blood sodium and calcium have been known to lead to seizures.
Drug and alcohol use may lead to seizures especially the use of illegal drugs. Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol often lead to seizures.
Despite the popular folk wisdom that people can swallow their tongues during a seizure, it is impossible for a person to do so.
Do not put anything in a person’s mouth when he or she has a seizure.
Remove anything nearby that the person with a seizure can knock into. If possible, dim or turn down lights. Roll the person onto his or her side.
Treatment depends entirely on the cause of the grand mal seizure and so varies from individual to individual.
The prevention of those conditions that may cause damage to the brain is key in preventing grand mal seizures. Many infections of the brain cannot be prevented, but there is a vaccine for meningitis that many may find beneficial.
It is always important to try to prevent head injuries. When riding a bicycle or motorcycle, always wear a helmet to prevent head trauma.
Maintain proper hydration and nutrition. Low sodium and calcium levels will result in those that become malnourished or dehydrated.
Stroke is a major cause of grand mal seizures. Many strokes are caused by high blood pressure and atherosclerosis of the arteries in the brain. Keeping blood pressure low and eating a diet low in fat and cholesterol will help with stroke prevention and prevent the grand mal seizures that often accompany a stroke.
Don’t use any illegal drugs, and don’t drink excessively. Misuse of these substances leads to numerous health consequences.