How a disease left a 25-year-old man paralysed

·News Reporter
·2-min read

A 25-year-old man has been left paralysed due to a rare disease.

The man, from Toronto, Canada, was hospitalised in the emergency department due to weakness in his arms and legs, according to his case in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“He reported a 3-month history of intermittent arm and leg weakness, palpitations, trembling, and insomnia,” researchers wrote.

“On examination, he had a heart rate of 107 beats per minute, a palpable goiter, and an inability to lift his arms or legs.”

The hands of a 25-year-old man hospitalised with paralysis are pictured.
A man, 25, was hospitalised with paralysis in his arms and legs. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Doctors noted his phosphate and potassium levels were low so he was given supplements to increase them. He had a potassium level of 1.6 mmol per liter and according to Mayo Clinic below 2.5 is considered life-threatening in some cases.

He was able to lift his arms after his potassium reached 1.9 mmol per litre but not his legs.

Once it increased to 3.3 mmol per litre he was once again able to lift his legs too. This was four hours after doctors initially examined him.

“A diagnosis of thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, a condition that is characterised by episodes of muscle weakness associated with hyperthyroidism, was made,” researchers wrote.

“Episodes are typically associated with severe hypokalemia.”

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine which can lead to unintended weight loss, accelerated metabolism and irregular heart beats.

He was given medication and returned with no issues three weeks later.

Doctors determined the man had Graves’ disease.

Graves’ disease is an illness which results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones.

Symptoms can include fatigue, erectile dysfunction, sleep disturbance and heat sensitivity.

It’s estimated to affect two to three per cent of the general population, according to National Organisation for Rare Disorders.

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