Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis

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Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis
Other names: Gamstorp disease, Gamstorp episodic adynamy, adynamia episodica hereditaria with or without myotonia,[1] HyperKPP[2]
SpecialtyNeurology, medical genetics
SymptomsEpisodes of muscle weakness[2]
ComplicationsStiffness, ongoing muscle weakness[2]
Usual onsetChildhood[2]
Duration15 to 60 min[2]
CausesGenetic mutation (autosomal dominant)[2]
Diagnostic methodBased on symptoms, supported by genetic testing[2]
Differential diagnosisAndersen-Tawil syndrome, adrenal insufficiency[2]
TreatmentPreventing attacks: Avoiding triggers, thiazide diuretics, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors[2]
Treating attacks: Eating carbohydrates, salbutamol, calcium gluconate[2]
Frequency1 in 200,000[3]

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is an genetic disease characterized by episodes of muscle weakness and high potassium.[1] Episodes generally last 15 to 60 min.[2] Mild stiffness may remain between attacks.[3] Complications may include ongoing weakness.[2]

Attacks can be triggered by exercise, potassium rich foods such as potatoes, pregnancy, extremes of temperature, stress, and alcohol.[3] Most cases are due to a mutation of the SCN4A gene which is involved in sodium channel function.[3] It is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.[3] Diagnosis is suspected based on symptoms, after ruling out other possible causes, and may be supported by genetic testing.[2]

Management involves avoiding triggers.[2] Attacks may be treated by eating carbohydrate rich foods, salbutamol, or calcium gluconate.[2] Other preventative efforts may include thiazide diuretics or carbonic anhydrase inhibitors.[2] Those affected should also avoid depolarizing agents.[2] Long term outcomes are often poor.[2]

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis affects about 1 in 200,000 people.[3] Onset is usually in early childhood, with attacks potentially continuing into mid or late adulthood.[2] Males and females are affected equally frequently.[2] The condition was first described in 1951 by Tyler.[4] Horses may also be affected with a similar disease known as hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (equine).[5]

Signs and symptoms

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis causes episodes of extreme muscle weakness, with attacks often beginning in childhood.[6] Depending on the type and severity of the HyperKPP, it can increase or stabilize until the fourth or fifth decade where attacks may cease, decline, or, depending on the type, continue on into old age. Factors that can trigger attacks include rest after exercise, potassium-rich foods, stress, fatigue, weather changes, certain pollutants (e.g., cigarette smoke) and fasting. Muscle strength often improves between attacks, although many affected people may have increasing bouts of muscle weakness as the disorder progresses (abortive attacks). Sometimes with HyperKPP those affected may experience degrees of muscle stiffness and spasms (myotonia) in the affected muscles. This can be caused by the same things that trigger the paralysis, dependent on the type of myotonia.

Some people with hyperkalemic periodic paralysis have increased levels of potassium in their blood (hyperkalemia) during attacks. In other cases, attacks are associated with normal blood potassium levels (normokalemia). Ingesting potassium can trigger attacks in affected individuals, even if blood potassium levels do not rise in response.

In contrast to HyperKPP, hypokalemic periodic paralysis refers to loss-of-function mutations in channels that prevent muscle depolarisation and therefore are aggravated by low potassium ion concentrations.


In humans, the most common underlying genetic cause is one of several possible point mutations in the gene SCN4A.[7] This gene codes for a voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.4 found at the neuromuscular junction. This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause it.

Action potentials from the central nervous system cause end-plate potentials at the NMJ which causes sodium ions to enter by Nav1.4 and depolarise the muscle cells. This depolarisation triggers the entry of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum to cause contraction (tensing) of the muscle. To prevent the muscle from being perpetually contracted, the channel contains a fast inactivation gate that plugs the sodium pore very quickly after it opens. This prevents further entry of sodium. In time, potassium ions will leave the muscle cells, repolarising the cells and causing the pumping of calcium away from the contractile apparatus to relax the muscle.[citation needed]

Mutations altering the usual structure and function of this sodium channel therefore disrupt regulation of muscle contraction, leading to episodes of severe muscle weakness or paralysis. Mutations have been identified in residues between transmembrane domains III and IV which make up the fast inactivation gate of Nav1.4. Mutations have been found on the cytoplasmic loops between the S4 and S5 helices of domains II, III and IV, which are the binding sites of the inactivation gate.[8][9]

The pathological mechanism of SCN4A mutations in hyperkalemic periodic paralysis is complex, but explains the autosomal dominant and hyperkalemia-related aspects of the disease.[10] In patients with mutations in SCN4A, not all copies of the channel inactivate following the action potential. This results in a sodium leak and failure to return to the original resting membrane potential. In the presence of hyperkalemia, which causes an additional chronic depolarization of the membrane potential, this sodium leak raises the membrane potential to the point that all sodium channels, including channels produced from the wild-type allele and mutant channels that did inactivate, fail to be release from inactivation (enter depolarization block). Since the motor end plate is depolarised, further signals to contract have no effect (paralysis).[11][12]


EMG-myopathic features of short duration, low-amplitude polyphasia, which can be seen in hyperPP

In terms of the diagnosis of hyperPP the following is done to confirm the disease:[13][14]

  • Clinical symptoms
  • Increase blood potassium level
  • Genetic testing
  • EMG


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis | Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) – an NCATS Program". rarediseases.info.nih.gov. Archived from the original on 19 March 2021. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Sekhon, DS; Gupta, V (January 2021). "Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis". PMID 33231989. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis: MedlinePlus Genetics". medlineplus.gov. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  4. Rosenberg, Roger N.; Pascual, Juan M. (24 June 2020). Rosenberg's Molecular and Genetic Basis of Neurological and Psychiatric Disease: Volume 2. Academic Press. p. 527. ISBN 978-0-12-813867-0. Archived from the original on 28 August 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  5. Robinson, Norman Edward; Sprayberry, Kim A. (2009). Current Therapy in Equine Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 461. ISBN 978-1-4160-5475-7. Archived from the original on 2021-08-28. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 MedlinePlus: Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis Archived 2016-07-05 at the Wayback Machine Update Date: 7/25/2006. Updated by: David M. Charytan, M.D., M.Sc., Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.
  7. Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM): Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis; HYPP - 17050
  8. Rojas CV, Wang JZ, Schwartz LS, Hoffman EP, Powell BR, Brown RH (December 1991). "A Met-to-Val mutation in the skeletal muscle Na+ channel alpha-subunit in hyperkalaemic periodic paralysis". Nature. 354 (6352): 387–9. Bibcode:1991Natur.354..387R. doi:10.1038/354387a0. PMID 1659668. S2CID 4372717.
  9. Bendahhou S, Cummins TR, Kula RW, Fu YH, Ptácek LJ (April 2002). "Impairment of slow inactivation as a common mechanism for periodic paralysis in DIIS4-S5". Neurology. 58 (8): 1266–72. doi:10.1212/wnl.58.8.1266. PMID 11971097. S2CID 10412539. Archived from the original on 2021-08-28. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
  10. Cannon, Stephen C. (2018). "Sodium Channelopathies of Skeletal Muscle". Voltage-gated Sodium Channels: Structure, Function and Channelopathies. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. Springer International Publishing. 246: 309–330. doi:10.1007/164_2017_52. ISBN 978-3-319-90283-8. PMC 5866235. PMID 28939973.
  11. Rüdel R, Lehmann-Horn F, Ricker K, Küther G (February 1984). "Hypokalemic periodic paralysis: in vitro investigation of muscle fiber membrane parameters". Muscle Nerve. 7 (2): 110–20. doi:10.1002/mus.880070205. PMID 6325904.
  12. Jurkat-Rott K, Lehmann-Horn F (August 2005). "Muscle channelopathies and critical points in functional and genetic studies". J. Clin. Invest. 115 (8): 2000–9. doi:10.1172/JCI25525. PMC 1180551. PMID 16075040.
  13. "Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis". NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). Archived from the original on 13 May 2022. Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  14. Weber, Frank (1993). "Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis". GeneReviews®. University of Washington, Seattle. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  15. Lee, GM; Kim, JB (June 2011). "Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis and paramyotonia congenita caused by a de novo mutation in the SCN4A gene". Neurology Asia. 16 (2): 163–6.

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