Thyrotoxic Periodic Paralysis: An Incidental Diagnosis!


South Atlantic


Orange Park Medical Center

Document Type

Case Report

Publication Date



thyrotoxicity, hypokalemia, paralysis, na-k atpase, graves' disease


Endocrine System Diseases | Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism | Internal Medicine


Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis is a rare presentation of thyrotoxicosis where the patient develops a transient motor deficit secondary to acute hypokalemia. The thyroid hormone augments gene transcription and post-transcriptional modification of Na-K ATPase, a cell membrane protein that regulates the electrical potential of the cell. Na-K ATPase increases active transport of potassium (K+) ions into the intracellular compartment causing hypokalemia without total body potassium deficit. Severe hypokalemia affects depolarization of the muscle cell membrane, clinically evidenced as paralysis. Other factors that may trigger hypokalemia and paralysis in the setting of hyperthyroidism include diet intake high in carbohydrates and salt, alcohol ingestion, trauma, infections, certain medication, and strenuous exercise. This rare but possible clinical presentation of thyrotoxicosis is significantly more predominant in males of Asian descent. We are reporting a case of a 44-year-old Asian-American male who presented to the emergency department with complaints of acute onset of bilateral lower extremity weakness. He had severe hypokalemia and was diagnosed with primary hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease.

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