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Understanding the Symptoms of Primary Periodic Paralysis

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 10/29/2009

This article will focus on the symptoms of primary periodic paralysis with special focus on primary periodic paralysis from the waist down.

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    Primary periodic paralysis is a condition in which a person experiences periods of muscle paralysis. During these periods they lose their muscle function, and are unable to move certain parts of their body, and sometimes they cannot move any part of their body. This paralysis is caused by changes in how calcium, sodium, or potassium flow in the muscle cells. In most cases, a patient's respiratory and facial muscles will not be affected.

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    Symptom Frequency

    Patients with this condition can experience paralysis episodes lasting as little as several hours, or as much as several days. The average episode length is 24 hours. When patients are in between episodes, they often experience normal muscle strength. Patients with this condition most often begin experiencing symptoms during their adolescent years.

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    Remission Periods

    Patients affected by this condition will have remission periods in between paralysis periods. These remission periods can last days, weeks, months, or even years. Patients, particularly those who experience primary periodic paralysis from the waist down, often have trouble completely relaxing their muscles during remission periods and often experience restless leg syndrome and Charlie horses.

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    Weakness and Paralysis Symptoms

    The main primary periodic paralysis symptoms revolve around weakness and paralysis. They most often affect the hips and shoulders, occur when a patient wakes up from rest or sleep, they tend to occur intermittently, and alleviate in less than 24 hours. In rare cases, the weakness and paralysis symptoms will be triggered by exercise, but these two symptoms can also be triggered by alcohol consumption, and the consumption of heavy meals high in salt and carbohydrates. This two symptoms cal also affect the leg and arm muscles. In less common cases, they may affect the muscles used to swallow and breathe, and the eye muscles.

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    Other Symptoms

    Some patients will experience eyelid spasms that occur during remission periods. A positive Babinski's reflex may also occur. Babinski's reflex occurs when the foot is firmly stroked. Patients experiencing this symptom will notice their big toe moving towards the top of their foot. They will also notice their other toes fanning out.

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    References

    Kugler, M. R.N. (2006). Primary Periodic Paralysis Symptoms. Retrieved on October 26, 2009 from Website: http://rarediseases.about.com/od/rarediseasesp/a/primaryperiodic.htm