What is Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis (hypoKPP) is a type of primary periodic paralysis (PPP) which is a rare condition wherein the muscle becomes stiff.

hypokalemic periodic paralysis

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a condition that can be life-threatening. But you can alter the condition by changing your lifestyle and diet or preventing the known triggering factors of it. Medications may also help to avoid the episodes of the attack. Your best option may be devised by your doctor. So, speak to your doctor about it.

But before you do that, make yourself more knowledgeable about the condition.

What is Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis (hypoKPP) is a type of primary periodic paralysis (PPP) which is a rare condition wherein the muscle becomes stiff. However, in hypoKPP, the patient’s muscle experience painless weakness.

The dropping of potassium level is the experts’ primary suspect for this kind of paralysis. They additionally observe that the disorder is more common in men than women.

HypoKPP has two kinds:

  1. Paralytic – this kind of hypoKPP is the most common. The episodes of paralysis or muscle weakness experienced by a patient are only temporary.
  2. Myopathy – in this type of hypoKPP, muscle weakness or paralysis is permanent. It is much experience by older people for about 74%. The paralysis usually occurs starting at the legs due to exercise.

What are the Symptoms of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

At the age of 10, hypoKPP starts to attack. It is random but is mostly triggered by food or workout. The symptoms usually attack when you wake up from sleeping and it varies from mild muscle weakness to major paralysis. It can stay from a few hours to days.

Each individual has a different occurrence frequency. For instance, one can experience it sometime in a year, while others can suffer from it every day.

The episode of the attack decreases as a person ages. But on the contrary, their symptoms last even longer. Experts called it abortive attacks and its common symptoms are:

  • Paralysis
  • Muscles in the shoulders, arms, hips, and legs cramping or weakening
  • Heart palpitations

What are the Causes of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

Potassium is a vital nutrient in the body. Your muscle works by interchanging relaxation and contraction. Potassium is the one responsible for helping the muscles contract. Thus, lacking it causes hypoKPP.

Potassium ions have many roles in your body. In fact, once it is dissolved, they collect positive electric charge which enables them to send signals throughout the body.

Inside the cell membrane occurs the pumping of ions in and out. These ions use protein channels to travel in the entire body. However, people with hypoKPP have different protein channels function because of the mutations in their genes. Because of that, their muscles do not receive enough potassium to contract, thus, it resulted in muscle weakness and paralysis.

Unfortunately, hypoKPP is considered an autosomal disorder. Meaning to say, your children can inherit the condition. If either of the parents possesses the condition, children will develop it, too.

However, this is not always the case. Some individuals who have hypoKPP do not have a hypoKPP history in their family.

The Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis Triggering Factor

The triggering factors of hypoKPP vary from person to person. Nevertheless, most of the attacks are triggered by the following:

  • Strong emotion
  • Sleep
  • Eating a large portion of meals
  • Starchy or sugary food
  • Being too long when eating
  • Salty food
  • Certain medications (e.g. anesthesia)
  • Extreme physical activity
  • Extreme temperature

When to Contact your Doctor?

Some people with hypoKPP have a rare case of serious attack. When this occurs, you should get the attention of your doctor immediately.

These serious attacks may include but not limited to:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Being unconscious
  • Abnormal heartbeat which is referred to arrhythmia
  • Difficulty both in speaking and swallowing

These symptoms have a greater possibility to bring you to the emergency room.

How to Diagnose Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

Diagnosing the condition is quite challenging. There is no specific examination that doctors do to recognize its presence, not until they observe it during an attack.

The sad note is, doctors may not present when your attack occurs. Thus, if your experience the symptoms of the hypoKPP, you should immediately contact your doctor. Your doctor may ask some questions such as:

  • What were you doing when the attack occurs?
  • What symptoms did you experience?
  • In what time of the day does the symptoms attack?

Every detail of the disease should be known by your doctor. So, if your family have a history of hypoKPP, your doctor should know it to evaluate the symptoms further.

In case a hypoKPP attack occurs while you pay a visit to your doctor, your doctor may:

  • Conduct a blood test to check the level of your potassium
  • Watch you for any muscle reflexes reduction
  • Check your heartbeat through electrocardiogram

How to Treat Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

Treating the condition is simple. It contains diet change such as avoiding the triggering factor of the condition. Let’s say that the attack occurs when you eat sugary food, then your doctor may advise you to prevent from eating such food.

Your doctor may also advise some medication that may help treat the condition. Including in these medications are:

  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors – the medications has the ability to improve the potassium flow in your body. Some type of it is acetazolamide (Diamox) and dichlorphenamide (Keveyis).
  • Potassium Supplements – Increasing your potassium level might be a good option to decrease or totally stop your hypoKPP attacks. If taking oral potassium supplement helps, your doctor will provide you with proper dosage.

During diagnosis, it is important to let your doctor know what triggers your hypoKPP. By doing this, your doctor may come up for the best management plant.

How to Prevent Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis Attacks?

Preventing the condition itself to occur in your body is impossible, but reducing to experience its symptoms and episodes of attack are achievable.

What you just need to do are:

  • Learn what triggers the attack and avoid them as much as possible
  • Maintain the activity level you are doing from day to day
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Consume a diet with low-carb
  • Have a small amount of salt intake

hypokalemic periodic paralysis

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