Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

December 22 21:05 2019 Print This Article

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is an inherited disorder that causes occasional episodes of muscle weakness. During an attack of periodic paralysis, muscles do not respond to normal nerve impulses or even to artificial stimulation with an electronic instrument. The person remains completely awake and alert. The precise form that the disorder takes varies in different families.

In some families, the paralysis is related to high levels of potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia); in others, the paralysis is related to low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia) or, rarely, to normal levels. Some people may have episodes almost every day, while others experience them weekly, monthly, or only rarely.

Attacks can occur without warning or can be triggered by factors such as rest after exercise, a viral illness, or certain medications. Often, a large, carbohydrate-rich meal or vigorous exercise in the evening can trigger an attack upon waking the following morning. Although affected individuals usually regain their muscle strength between attacks, repeated episodes can lead to persistent muscle weakness later in life.

Causes of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

Periodic paralysis is a congenital condition that is, it is present from birth. Familial periodic paralysis is inherited but may occur without a known family history. The inherited form of the disorder is autosomal dominant, which means that only one affected parent is needed to transmit the gene to the baby. When one parent is affected, the child has a 50% chance of getting the disease. Rarely, the condition occurs as a result of a non-inherited genetic defect.

Find common causes and risk factors of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis:

  • Genetic – the diseased gene is passed down from one parent to the child (autosomal dominant).
  • Family history.
  • Sporadic – cases that are not genetic or familial do exist.
  • Thyroid disease-thyrotoxic PPS.
  • Eating high carbohydrate diet, rest, and sleep can trigger an attack.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Eyelid spasms between episodes
  • Irritability
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Treatment for Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

Treatment may include:

  • If arrhythmias are present, medications or electric¬†shock may normalize the heart rate.
  • Potassium orally or intravenously (in the veins) can stop attacks.
  • Oxygen may be needed if there is breathing difficulty.
  • Potassium (especially given through the veins) is dangerous and must be given under close supervision.
  • If breathing stops, a patient may need a respirator, i.e., a machine that breathes for the patient.