Periodic Paralysis

What is it?

According to the Periodic Paralysis Association, Periodic Paralysis refers to a group of rare illnesses that cause muscle weakness and paralysis. HKPP refers to Hypokalemic and hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. I have Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis. Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a form of the illness where you experience paralysis/weakness your body does not have enough potassium. Hyperkalelmic periodic paralysis is a form of paralysis where symptoms are caused by an excess of potassium. 

Symptoms

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Mild weakness to full blown paralysis
  • Slurred speech
  • Brainfog and confusion
  • Aches and pains
  • Droopy eyes
  • Mytonia (muscle stiffness or rigidity)
  • Sensitivity to sound, touch, and lights

*Symptoms vary from person to person, these are common symptoms that I experience.

Triggers

A trigger is something that can cause episodes of paralysis, muscle weakness or mytonia (muscle stiffness or tightness). It can be anything from certain foods to medication or even physical activity such as exercise. Here is a list of my personal triggers.

What causes it?

An imbalance of potassium in the body. Maintaining a balance of potassium and sodium in the blood is essential for muscle function. When there is too much or too little of either, it causes muscular issues. Here is an in depth explanation from Periodic Paralysis International.

The movement of sodium and potassium ions from one side of the muscle membrane to the other creates an electrical current. For the muscles to work properly these ions must be kept in the correct ratio both inside and outside the cell. In periodic paralysis the ion channels fail to regulate the flow of ions properly when potassium levels in the blood fluctuate. The ratios of sodium and potassium inside and outside the cell become unbalanced. The muscle responds less when asked to move, which is felt as weakness. If the imbalance becomes pronounced the muscle quits responding at all, i.e. becomes paralyzed.

How do you get it?

Periodic paralysis is inherited from family members, usually mom or dad. It is autosomal dominant meaning that if only one gene from either mom or dad is passed down, then the child will have it. Many people start experiencing symptoms after birth and in early childhood.

This is not the case for everyone. If the parents do not have it then it can also be caused by a gene mutation. For this reason genetic testing does not always work as a means of diagnosis. There are still many forms that have not been discovered and because this condition is so rare there isn’t a lot of research or information yet.

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