In petit mal, which is a less serious form of epilepsy, an attack comes and goes within a few seconds. The patient has a momentary loss of consciousness, with no convulsions except sometimes a slight rigidity, or there may be a slight attack of convulsions such as a jerk, or movement of the eyes, head, trunk or extremities, with no perceptible loss of consciousness. The patient may not fall. They may may suddenly stop what they are doing and then resume it when the attack is over, without even being aware of what has happened. Petit mal attacks may occur at any time in life but are most frequent in children.
The attack in case of grand mal comes with a dramatic effect. There are violent contractions of the arms, legs, and body, accompanied by a sudden loss of consciousness. Before the onset of an attack, some patients have a warning or aura in the form of strange sensations such as a current of air or a stream of water flowing over a body, noises, odors and flashes of light. In a typical attack, the patient cries out, falls to the ground loses consciousness and develops convulsions. With the convulsions may come foaming at the mouth, twitching of the muscles, biting of the tongue, distorted fixation of limbs, rotation of the head and deviation of the eyes.
The patient may lose control of their urine and feces. The attack may last several minutes and is usually followed by a deep sleep. On waking up, they may remember nothing of what happened to them.
People who suffer from epilepsy are not abnormal in any other way. They usually know that the fits can be triggered by particular stimuli. Between epileptic attacks, their brain functions normally.
Meningitis, typhoid, and other diseases attendant with prolonged high temperature can also lead to grand mal.
Epilepsy may be caused by several other factors. It may result from allergic reactions to certain food substances, especially some particular form of protein which is the main constituent of meat. Circulatory disorders such as hardening of arteries leading to the brain may also cause epileptic seizures. This type is rare and occurs only in very aged people. Chronic alcoholism, lead poisoning, cocaine and other such habits can also lead to this disease. Other causes of epileptic seizure include mental conflict, deficient mineral assimilation, particularly of magnesium and calcium and wrong vitamin metabolism. According to some researchers, hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is also involved in most cases of epilepsy.