Tonic seizures make the muscles tighten and the body go stiff. This can happen on one side or both sides of the body.
- Generalised tonic seizures aﬀect the whole body
- A focal tonic seizure makes the muscles tighten in just one area of the body
- The seizures are usually short, lasting for less than 60 seconds
- They can happen in clusters
- Tonic seizures often happen while people are asleep
If you have generalised tonic seizures, all your muscles tighten and your body goes stiff. Your neck will extend, and your eyes open wide and roll upwards. Your arms may raise upwards and your legs might stretch or contract. If standing you might fall over.
Sometimes the tightening muscles push air out of lungs which might cause you to cry out. If you do make a noise it’s the sound of air being squeezed out of the lungs, not because you are in pain. Some people stop breathing during a tonic seizure.
If you have a focal tonic seizure your muscles tighten in just one area of the body.
How people can help
If you have tonic seizures
It’s helpful for others to:
- Move any harmful objects away from you
- Keep you safe
- Be calm and reassuring
- Stay with you until recovery is complete
- Seek medical advice if the seizure lasts longer than is usual for you
- To follow the advice of your medical team on what to do, if they are aware of it
It’s not helpful to:
- Move you unless you are in danger
- Restrain you
- Try to bring you round
- Give you anything to eat or drink until you are fully recovered
After the seizure
- Tonic seizures are usually very short and recovery tends to be fast
- You may feel sleepy or confused afterwards
- You might want people to let you know what they saw happening. If so it’s ok to ask
Keeping a seizure diary really helps people to understand their seizures better.
What percentage of your seizures are you recording in a seizure diary?
Go to the Seizures menu