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Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011 May 10;7(11):657-67. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2011.58.

Novel etiopathophysiological aspects of thyrotoxic periodic paralysis.

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Department of Medicine, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rua Pedro de Toledo, São Paulo, Brazil.


Thyrotoxicosis can lead to thyrotoxic periodic paralysis (TPP), an endocrine channelopathy, and is the most common cause of acquired periodic paralysis. Typically, paralytic attacks cease when hyperthyroidism is abolished, and recur if hyperthyroidism returns. TPP is often underdiagnosed, as it has diverse periodicity, duration and intensity. The age at which patients develop TPP closely follows the age at which thyrotoxicosis occurs. All ethnicities can be affected, but TPP is most prevalent in people of Asian and, secondly, Latin American descent. TPP is characterized by hypokalemia, suppressed TSH levels and increased levels of thyroid hormones. Nonselective β adrenergic blockers, such as propranolol, are an efficient adjuvant to antithyroid drugs to prevent paralysis; however, an early and definitive treatment should always be pursued. Evidence indicates that TPP results from the combination of genetic susceptibility, thyrotoxicosis and environmental factors (such as a high-carbohydrate diet). We believe that excess T(3) modifies the insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle and pancreatic β cells and thus alters potassium homeostasis, but only leads to a depolarization-induced acute loss of muscle excitability in patients with inherited ion channel mutations. An integrated etiopathophysiological model is proposed based on molecular findings and knowledge gained from long-term follow-up of patients with TPP.

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