What are the causes and remedies for tetany?

Symptom Database

Tetany is a medical condition characterized by muscle spasms and twitching due to low levels of calcium in the blood. It can be a distressing and debilitating condition, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, it can be managed effectively. In this article, we will explore the causes of tetany, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures.

Tetany Symptoms

Tetany symptoms are primarily caused by hypocalcemia, which is a condition characterized by low calcium levels in the blood. The most common symptoms of tetany include:

  • Muscle spasms and twitching
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Cramps in the hands, feet, or face
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Tetany

Tetany is primarily caused by low levels of calcium in the blood, but there can be various underlying factors contributing to this condition. Some common causes of tetany include:

  • Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption. Insufficient levels of vitamin D can lead to low calcium levels and subsequently trigger tetany.
  • Hypoparathyroidism: This condition occurs when the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates calcium levels in the blood. Hypoparathyroidism can result in tetany.
  • Kidney disorders: Kidney diseases can affect the body’s ability to regulate calcium levels, leading to hypocalcemia and tetany.
  • Malabsorption issues: Certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, can interfere with the absorption of calcium and other essential nutrients, increasing the risk of tetany.
  • Alkalosis: Alkalosis is a condition characterized by an imbalance in the body’s pH levels, making the blood more alkaline. This can lead to decreased calcium levels and trigger tetany.

It is important to identify the underlying cause of tetany to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Tetany Diagnosis

Diagnosing tetany involves a thorough evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and laboratory tests. A healthcare professional may perform the following:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can measure calcium levels, as well as other electrolytes and hormones that may be contributing to the condition.
  • Electromyography (EMG): EMG is a test that measures the electrical activity of muscles and can help identify abnormal muscle activity associated with tetany.
  • Imaging tests: In some cases, imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans may be ordered to assess the health of the parathyroid glands or identify any underlying conditions.

Based on the results of these tests, a healthcare professional can make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Tetany Treatment

The treatment of tetany aims to restore normal calcium levels in the blood and manage the underlying cause. The following treatment options may be recommended:

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements: Oral or intravenous calcium supplements may be prescribed to increase calcium levels in the blood. Vitamin D supplements can also aid in calcium absorption.
  • Parathyroid hormone replacement: In cases of hypoparathyroidism, synthetic parathyroid hormone may be administered to regulate calcium levels.
  • Treating underlying conditions: If tetany is caused by an underlying condition, such as kidney disease or malabsorption issues, treating the primary condition can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Making dietary changes, such as consuming foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, can support overall calcium levels in the body.

It is important to follow the prescribed treatment plan and attend regular follow-up appointments to monitor calcium levels and adjust the treatment as necessary.

Tetany Prevention and Management

While tetany may not always be preventable, there are steps individuals can take to reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  • Ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D through a balanced diet or supplements.
  • Manage underlying conditions that can contribute to low calcium levels, such as kidney disease or gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and stress management, as stress can affect calcium levels.
  • Attend regular check-ups and screenings to monitor calcium levels and detect any abnormalities early on.

By adopting these preventive measures and effectively managing any underlying conditions, individuals can reduce the risk of developing tetany or minimize its impact on their daily lives.

In conclusion, tetany is a condition characterized by muscle spasms and twitching due to low calcium levels in the blood. It can be caused by various factors, including vitamin D deficiency, hypoparathyroidism, kidney disorders, malabsorption issues, and alkalosis. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to manage tetany effectively. Treatment options may include calcium and vitamin D supplements, parathyroid hormone replacement, and addressing underlying conditions. By following preventive measures and adopting a healthy lifestyle, individuals can reduce the risk of developing tetany and maintain optimal calcium levels in the body.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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