Background: Hypokalaemic periodic paralysis constitutes a heterogeneous group of disorders that present with acute muscular weakness. In this analysis, we discuss the aetiological factors that appear to be more common in the Indian population.
Methods: From 1995 to 2001, 31 patients presented with periodic paralysis (mean age 34.5 years, range 11-68 years). Of the 31 patients, 19 were men. The clinical and laboratory data of these patients were analysed. Patients were investigated for possible secondary causes of hypokalaemla.
Results: There were 13 patients (42%) with renal tubular acidosis, 13 with primary hyperaldosteronism (42%), 2 each with thyrotoxic periodic paralysis and sporadic periodic paralysis, and I with Gitelman syndrome. Of the 13 patients with renal tubular acidosis, 10 had proximal and 3 distal renal tubular acidosis. Three of these patients with renal tubular acidosis had Sjogren syndrome. The patients diagnosed to have renal tubular acidosis had significantly lower serum bicarbonate (18.7 [14.6] v. 29.6 [5.0] mEq/L; p < 0.05) and higher levels of chloride (107.5 [6.0] v. 99.5 [3.4] mEq/L; p < 0.05) compared with those who had primary hyperaldosteronism, although the potassium values were similar (2.4 [0.65] v. 2.26 [0.48] mEq/L; p = 0.43). All patients with primary hyperaldosteronism had hypertension at presentation and were proven to have adrenal adenomas.
Conclusion: A significant number of patients in this study had secondary and potentially reversible causes of hypokalaemic periodic paralysis. The common causes were renal tubular acidosis and primary hyperaldosteronism. A detailed work-up for secondary causes should be undertaken in Indian patients with hypokalaemic periodic paralysis.