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What is a Tonic-Clonic Seizure & How Can It Be Treated?

What is a Tonic-Clonic Seizure ?

Generalized tonic-clonic seizure or grand mal seizure refers to a disturbance that takes place in the functioning of a human brain in its both sides. This disturbance usually takes place because of the spreading of electrical signals through an individual’s brain in an inappropriate manner. This will often leads to sending of signals to the glands, nerves and muscles of a human being. Spreading of such signals in the brain make you to lose your consciousness and suffer with severe muscular contractions.

Phases of the Tonic-Clonic Seizure

Tonic-clonic seizure, as the name indicates, combines the two different characteristics/phases referred as tonic seizure and clonic seizure. Here, first phase i.e. the tonic phase implies stiffening, while second phase i.e. clonic phase implies rhythmical jerking in humans.

Phase 1 is the Tonic Phase

A person first suffers with the tonic phase. During this phase of tonic-clonic seizure –

  • Each of the muscles become stiffen
  • Air passes forcibly across the vocal cords to cause a groan or a cry.
  • Patients lose their consciousness and fall on the floor.
  • A person may bite inner part of the cheek or bite his tongue. If this takes place, his saliva may appear slightly bloody.

Phase 2 is the Clonic Phase

Clonic phase comes after the completion of tonic phase in tonic-clonic seizure. In this phase-

  • Legs and arms of a person usually start to jerk in a rapid and in a rhythmic manner, while forces him to bend and relax at his hips, elbows and knees. However, this jerk slows as well as stops after a few minutes.
  • Face of such patients may become dusty or slightly blue in case they deal with the problem of difficulty breathing or seizure lasts for a long time.
  • Individuals may lose their control of bowels and bladders because their body reaches to the relaxing mode

Other Aspects of Tonic-Clonic Seizure

  • Awareness or consciousness of a patient returns slowly
  • Seizures, especially the tonic clonic ones last for minimum 1 to maximum 3 minutes. Later on, the person may feel confused, sleepy, depressed or irritable.
  • In case the problem of tonic-clonic seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, patients should immediately go for suitable medical help.
  • A tonic-clonic seizure lasting for 10 minutes or more and three seizures back-to-back are dangerous situations. Neurologists call this status epilepticus and recommends for an emergency treatment in hospitals.

How Can Tonic Clonic Seizures Be Treated?

Daily Intake of Basic Medicines for Tonic-Clonic Seizure

Prime way to treat tonic-clonic seizure is to take medicines on a daily basis. With the help of your doctor, you will get the best possible medicine after your diagnosis becomes clear. In fact, in most of the cases, you have to spend very less time to find out the right medicine.

Special Medicines/Rescue Medicines for Tonic-Clonic Seizure

Neurologists and neurosurgeons may recommend special medicines for those patients, who undergo with relatively more numbers of tonic-clonic seizure than usual or stopping further seizure problems to take place. Because of this, a few doctors also call them as rescue medicines. If the doctor prescribes such a medicine to you, it is essential to make sure of going with the specific instructions while you intake it.

Diet to Control the Problem of Tonic-Clonic Seizure

Doctors may even recommend for a special Ketogenic or Keto diet to deal with tonic-clonic seizure problem or to control seizures in both adults and children.

Tonic-Clonic Seizure Treatment via Devices

Responsive neuro-stimulator and Vagus nerve stimulators are the two devices, which help in the treatment of those tonic-clonic seizures, which fail to give proper response with seizure medicines. These devices play a major role to implant an electric device to stimulate nerves of your neck automatically.


  1. “Tonic-Clonic Seizures (Grand Mal Seizures)” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures/tonic-clonic-seizures

  2. “Tonic-Clonic Seizures (Grand Mal Seizures)” – Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/tonicclonic-seizures-grand-mal-seizures

  3. “Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures” – Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/tonic-clonic-seizures

  4. “Tonic-Clonic Seizures” – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350092

  5. “Treatment for Seizures” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/treatment

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 10, 2023

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