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Grand mal seizure

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A grand mal seizure - also known as a tonic-clonic seizure - is a common type of seizure, characterized by loss of consciousness, falling down, loss of bowel or bladder control, and rhythmic convulsions. Seizures result from an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Other types of seizures include petit mal seizure and temporal lobe seizure.


If an underlying cause can be found, correcting it may stop the seizures. If you have infrequent seizures, you can lead an active, productive lifestyle. Several types of treatments are available for both frequent and infrequent seizures:

  • Medications. Many medications can effectively reduce or eliminate the number of seizures for some people. Finding the right medication and dosage can be complex. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex (Depakote), gabapentin (Neurontin), phenobarbital, ethosuximide (Zarontin), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), primidone (Mysoline), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), lamotrigine (Lamictal), topiramate (Topamax), felbamate (Felbatol) and tiagabine (Gabitril). Seizure medications are associated with birth defects. However, if you're pregnant, continued seizures can be harmful to you and your baby. If you have epilepsy and you're considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor.

  • Surgery. For seizure disorders that don't respond well to medications, surgery may be an option if the seizures are localized to a particular part of the brain and that part of the brain can be removed without serious consequences. Surgery may also be effective if the cause of seizures is a tumor or malformation of the brain. In children who don't seem to have a focal point to their seizures and who regularly fall to the ground during their seizures, surgery to split the tissue that connects the brain's two hemispheres — called the corpus callosum — may dramatically reduce "drop seizures" without adversely affecting the brain's other functions.

  • Ketogenic diet. This complicated, rigid approach involves a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-protein diet. The diet's name comes from ketones, chemicals produced during starvation when your body uses more fat for energy than it normally does. Exact amounts of specific foods and beverages are prescribed for each meal. The diet is so sensitive that even a tiny intake of sugar can significantly reduce the amount of ketones produced. It's not clear how the diet works to reduce seizures. But in children, a third of those on the diet gain complete control over their seizures, another third have fewer seizures and the final third are unaffected by the diet. Close medical supervision is necessary for this diet to succeed. It's definitely not something you can undertake on your own.

  • Vagus nerve stimulation. A device called a vagus nerve stimulator may be an option if medications are ineffective or cause serious side effects. The stimulator is implanted into your chest under the collarbone. Wires from the stimulator are wrapped around the vagus nerve in your neck. The vagus nerve connects the lower part of your brain to your heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The device turns on and off according to an adjustable program, stimulating your brain. It's not clear how brain stimulation via the vagus nerve inhibits seizures.

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