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:

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)

Signs and tests

Treatment

For more information about diagnosis and treatment, see:

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Prevention

visHeader

Central nervous system

References

Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC. Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 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. Clin Neuro Neurosurg. 2009;111:1–9.

Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles and Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
Review Date: February 27, 2013

A.D.A.M. quality A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process, and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation ( www.HONcode.ch.)

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. A.D.A.M. ©1997-2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Advertisement
 
 

Sign Up for Free Newsletters

View All Newsletters

Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!

Get FREE tools and tips to get
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!

The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.