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Generalized tonic-clonic seizure

Definition

Generalized tonic-clonic seizure is a seizure that involves the entire body. It is also called grand mal seizure. The terms seizure , convulsion, or epilepsy are most often associated with generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Alternative Names

Seizure - tonic-clonic; Seizure - grand mal; Grand mal seizure; Seizure - generalized

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Generalized tonic-clonic seizures may occur in people of any age. They may occur once (single episode), or as part of a repeated, chronic condition (epilepsy). Some seizures are due to psychological problems (psychogenic).

Symptoms

Many patients with generalized tonic-clonic seizures have vision, taste, smell, or sensory changes, hallucinations, or dizziness before the seizure. This is called an aura.

The seizures usually involve rigid muscles , followed by violent muscle contractions , and loss of alertness (consciousness ).Other symptoms that occur during the seizure may include:

  • Biting the cheek or tongue
  • Clenched teeth or jaw
  • Loss of urine or stool control (incontinence)
  • or Stopped breathing
  • Blue skin color

After the seizure, the person may have:

  • Normal breathing
  • Sleepiness that lasts for 1 hour or longer
  • Loss of memory (amnesia) regarding events surrounding the seizure episode
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness of one side of the body for a few minutes to a few hours following seizure (called Todd paralysis)

Treatment

For more information about diagnosis and treatment, see:

Support Groups

References

Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 67.

Bodde NMG, Brooks JL, Baker GA, et al. Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures—diagnostic issues: a critical review. . 2009;111:1–9.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.