Medical Definition of Grand mal

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

Grand mal: A form of epilepsy characterized by tonic-clonic seizures. involving two phases -- the tonic phase in which the body becomes rigid, and clonic phase in which there is uncontrolled jerking. Tonic-clonic seizures may or may not be preceded by an aura, and are often followed by headache, confusion, and sleep. They may last for mere seconds, or continue for several minutes. If a tonic-clonic seizure does not resolve or if such seizures follow each other in rapid succession, seek emergency help. The person could be in a life-threatening state known as status epilepticus. Treatment is with antiseizure medications.

Grand mal means big illness in French and is in contrast to another type of epilepsy known as petit mal.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017