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What does a grand mal seizure look like?

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The type of seizure most people think of is a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, better known as a grand mal seizure. They're frightening to watch, and the person rarely knows or remembers what's happening.

1. The person seems to "check out." They won't answer if you talk to them. They won't react if you wave a hand in their face or shake them. They may collapse.

2. Their muscles clench and become as stiff as a board. (This is the tonic phase. It lasts a few seconds.)

3. Next comes a series of jerking movements. (This is the clonic phase. It can last a few seconds or several minutes.)

4. Eventually, the jerking stops and they're alert and can talk again, but they may be dazed or unsteady for a little while.

From: First Aid for Epilepsy Seizures WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Epilepsy Foundation: "Living With Epilepsy," "Focal Onset Aware Seizures (simple partial seizures)," "First Aid," "Is an Emergency Room Visit Needed?"

Epilepsy Action: "First aid," "Focal seizures."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research."

Reviewed by Richard Senelick on July 31, 2017

SOURCES:

Epilepsy Foundation: "Living With Epilepsy," "Focal Onset Aware Seizures (simple partial seizures)," "First Aid," "Is an Emergency Room Visit Needed?"

Epilepsy Action: "First aid," "Focal seizures."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research."

Reviewed by Richard Senelick on July 31, 2017

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Why are generalized tonic-clonic seizures dangerous?

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