Seizures of any type can be scary and disruptive. Because of the physical intensity and the confusion that can follow, this is especially true for a grand mal seizure. Safety can be a major concern with these seizures, and precautions should be taken. It is also important to consider the long-term effects that grand mal seizures might have on a person’s health and lifestyle.
Grand mal seizures are also called tonic-clonic seizures. The latter name describes the two phases of the event. The tonic phase is the beginning, lasting 10 to 20 seconds. During this time, the person having the seizure loses consciousness, and the muscles contract. During the clonic phase, the muscles begin to contract and relax in what appears to be a rhythm. This can last two to three minutes.
The specific cause of a grand mal seizure is a problem with the electrical activity within the brain. This can be caused by many things, including a traumatic brain injury, problems with blood sugar, a stroke, brain tumors, and drug and alcohol use. There also might be a genetic component to why some people have seizures.
There are many different medications available to help prevent seizures. However, they all come with side effects, ranging from mild to severe. It is important to work with a doctor to find the right drug to control seizures and figure out which ones cause the least amount of discomfort. Minor side effects that someone on anti-seizure medications might encounter include fatigue, dizziness and weight gain. More serious side effects can be rashes, mood swings, speech problems and extreme tiredness.
It is not common for death or brain damage to occur during a grand mal seizure. However, due to the intensity of the occurrence, injuries could occur from lack of oxygen, falling or swallowing something during the seizure. Often, because of safety issues, lifestyle changes will be required. If the condition causing the grand mal seizure is chronic, then the person might not be able to drive. Activities such as swimming should be avoided because of the risk of losing consciousness during a seizure.
Pregnant women should be vigilant about working with their doctors to find medications that are safe for their growing baby and after giving birth if they choose to breast feed. Some medications can result in birth defects, so planning ahead can be an important step in delivering a healthy baby. Contraception should also be discussed with a neurologist, since some medications can make some contraceptives less effective.