Periodic Paralysis Syndromes
(Familial Periodic Paralysis; Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis; Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis; Anderson-Tawil Syndrome; Paraneoplastic Periodic Paralysis)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Periodic paralyses (PP) are a rare group of disorders. They result in brief periods of severe muscle weakness.
The most common types are hypokalemic, hyperkalemic, thyrotoxic, and Andersen-Tawil syndrome.
Minerals like sodium and potassium are needed to make muscles contract. With PP, the gateway for these minerals is disturbed and causes problems with the ability of muscles to contract.
PP is caused by problems with genes. Only 1 affected parent is needed to pass the gene to the baby.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
The main problems are brief periods of severe weakness in the arms and legs. Muscle strength returns to normal between attacks. The attacks may be triggered by things like exercise or alcohol.
Depending on the type of PP, a person may also have:
Repeat attacks may lead to long-term muscle weakness later in life.
People with some types of PP are at risk for a problem known as malignant hyperthermia. It is a fast and harmful rise in body temperature. It can occur during the use of general anesthesia.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also be asked about your family health history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests that may be done are:
There is no cure. The goal is to prevent attacks and ease symptoms. Choices are:
There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.
Muscular Dystrophy Association
National Organization for Rare Disorders
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Andersen-Tawill syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/andersen-tawil-syndrome. Accessed October 6, 2020.
Familial periodic paralyses information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Familial-Periodic-Paralyses-Information-Page. Accessed October 6, 2020.
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Accessed October 6, 2020.
Sansone V, Meola G, et al. Treatment for periodic paralysis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD005045.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/21/2021