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Periodic Paralysis Syndrome

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What, you may ask, is periodic Paralysis Syndrome?

You may have heard of it in other ways, for it sometimes makes itself known as:

PPS, Familial Periodic Paralysis, Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, Periodic Muscle Weakness

No matter which name you choose, it is a condition which is characterized by periodic or intermittent weakness or paralysis of muscles that may last for hours or days. In general, it does not begin in adulthood, but rather the onset is in adolescence. In certain families, more than one member suffers from PPS.

Some of the symptoms of PPS include:
Sudden weakness of proximal muscles (those which are close to the body).
Shoulder, hips, arms, and legs are weak and flaccid (not stiff but very relaxed).
There can be swallowing or breathing difficulty (swallowing and respiratory muscles).
Muscle cramps.
Often follows a heavy carbohydrate meal (pasta, rice, etc.), upon awakening, or resting after exercise.
May last hours or days
Between attacks the muscle strength and tone is normal.
Fractures can occur during a fall.
Heart may race or beat irregularly.
Patient is alert during attacks.

The causes of PPS can either be genetic or no (otherwise known as sporadic -- cases that are not genetic or familial).
A diagnosis of PPS will be made based on the following factors:
Family history
Eating and exercise habits
Social habits -- drug and alcohol use
Your physician will give you a physical exam to check for certain factors related to a diagnosis of PPS. These include:
Weak, flaccid muscles during attack -- when the patient picks up his arm, it drops without resistance. Muscles return to normal between attacks. (you will probably be asked about this).
Reflexes, such as the knee-jerk reflex, are diminished.
Injection of Insulin (hormone) or glucose (sugar) can trigger an attack by decreasing blood Potassium levels (hypokalemia).
Blood taken during attack shows low Potassium levels. After attack the levels are normal.
During an attack, an EKG, which records the electrical activity of the heart, is abnormal.

Add a Comment1 Comments

I suffer from this condition which is very rare. Unfortuantely I have passed it down to my 2 daughters and son and now one of my grand-daughters has it too. Its a very scary thing when the full paralysis sets in.But I am greatful that I have days when I can walk to do things.

August 10, 2011 - 4:32pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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