Causes, symptoms, and treatment of periodic paralysis

Causes, symptoms, and treatment of periodic paralysis

Paralysis is a health condition that people usually associate with old age or near-fatal accidents. However, there’s a condition called periodic paralysis that is known to affect people irrespective of their age groups. Periodic paralysis or primary periodic paralysis is a group of rare diseases that can temporarily make the muscles weak, stiff, or unable to move. These episodes of periodic paralysis can last up to a few minutes to a few days and depend on the type of periodic paralysis one has.

The major types of periodic paralysis include hypokalemic periodic paralysis (hypoKPP), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (hyperKPP), paramyotonia congenita, and Andersen-Tawil Syndrome (ATS). The type of periodic paralysis one develops depends on the problem that cells have with their channels for sodium, chloride, calcium, or potassium. To function normally, one needs the right balance of these minerals inside and outside of the cells as this helps the muscles to move the way they should. Any problem with the channels for these key minerals can lead to either type of periodic paralysis.

Causes of periodic paralysis
Periodic paralysis is a condition that is caused by flaws in the genes that control sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium channels in the muscle cells. When the balance of these minerals is affected, the muscles cannot function to their optimum when the nerve signals them to move. Gradually, the muscles respond less and less to the nerve signals and this makes them weak. In the cases when the mineral balance in the muscle cells is severely affected, the muscles become inactive or paralyzed.

Periodic paralysis affects those children who receive the faulty gene from their parents. It is not necessary for the parents to show signs of periodic paralysis to pass it to their child. However, there are rare cases when children develop this condition even when the parents do not have a flawed gene.

There are certain triggers like medicine, exercise, or certain foods that can set off the attacks. These symptoms are often triggered in the following situations:

  • Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates
  • Eating too much or too little potassium
  • Sitting for a long time
  • Going hungry for too long
  • Resting after exercise, especially after an intense workout
  • Going out in cold weather
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being highly stressed
  • Using medicines like asthma drugs, painkillers, or some antibiotics

Symptoms of periodic paralysis

The symptoms become extremely evident during the episodes of periodic paralysis when the muscles become extremely weak or cannot move at all. Each attack can be different from the previous one, and the symptoms can either affect one part of the body or the entire body.

The most common symptoms of periodic paralysis include:

  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weakness in the face
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

Also, it is essential to note that different types of periodic paralysis display different symptoms.

Treatment for periodic paralysis

A major part of treating periodic paralysis relies on how well one can avoid the things that can trigger episodes of muscle weaknesses or paralysis. It becomes essential to make a few changes to the daily routine to prevent triggering episodes like this. Depending on the type of periodic paralysis, one needs to alter the amount of potassium and carbohydrates in the diet. Also, it is not advisable to go without food for a long time. To ensure that these episodes do not occur frequently, one can consult a physician and a dietician to help chalk out a suitable diet with essential nutrients.