What are the causes and remedies for tetany?

Symptom Database

Tetany is a medical condition characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, spasms, and twitching. It is caused by a decrease in the levels of calcium in the blood, leading to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes. This article will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention, management, and complications of tetany, as well as provide information on its treatment and remedies.

Tetany Symptoms

The symptoms of tetany can vary in severity and may include:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Twitching of the facial muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

These symptoms occur due to the overexcitability of the nerves and muscles caused by low levels of calcium in the blood.

Causes of Tetany

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of tetany:

  • Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium from the intestines. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to low calcium levels in the blood.
  • Hypoparathyroidism: This condition occurs when the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium levels in the body.
  • Malabsorption disorders: Certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, can interfere with the absorption of calcium and other nutrients.
  • Alkalosis: Alkalosis is a condition characterized by an imbalance in the body’s pH levels, leading to decreased calcium levels.
  • Kidney disorders: Chronic kidney disease or kidney failure can impair the body’s ability to regulate calcium levels.

Treatment for Tetany

The treatment for tetany aims to restore normal calcium levels in the blood and alleviate symptoms. The following approaches may be used:

  • Calcium supplementation: Calcium supplements may be prescribed to increase calcium levels in the blood. These can be taken orally or administered intravenously in severe cases.
  • Vitamin D supplementation: If the tetany is caused by a vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D supplements may be recommended to enhance calcium absorption.
  • Parathyroid hormone replacement: In cases of hypoparathyroidism, synthetic parathyroid hormone may be prescribed to regulate calcium levels.
  • Dietary changes: Consuming foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals, can help maintain adequate calcium levels.

Tetany Diagnosis

Diagnosing tetany involves a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. The following diagnostic methods may be used:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can measure calcium, magnesium, and phosphate levels in the blood, as well as assess kidney function.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG can detect any abnormalities in heart rhythm that may be caused by low calcium levels.
  • Chvostek’s sign and Trousseau’s sign: These physical examinations involve tapping the facial nerve or applying pressure to the arm to elicit muscle spasms, which can indicate tetany.

Tetany Prevention

Preventing tetany involves addressing the underlying causes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The following preventive measures can be taken:

  • Ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D through diet or supplements.
  • Manage and treat any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to tetany, such as kidney disorders or malabsorption disorders.
  • Follow a balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods.
  • Engage in regular physical activity to promote bone health and calcium absorption.

Tetany Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of developing tetany:

  • Age: Tetany is more common in infants and older adults.
  • Gender: Women are more prone to developing tetany, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders or gastrointestinal disorders, can increase the risk of tetany.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics or anticonvulsants, can affect calcium levels in the body.

Tetany Management

Managing tetany involves a combination of medical interventions and lifestyle modifications:

  • Regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare provider to monitor calcium levels and adjust treatment if necessary.
  • Adhering to the prescribed medication regimen, including calcium and vitamin D supplements.
  • Seeking immediate medical attention in case of severe symptoms or complications.
  • Practicing stress-reducing techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, as stress can exacerbate symptoms.

Tetany Complications

If left untreated or poorly managed, tetany can lead to various complications:

  • Seizures: Severe tetany can trigger seizures, which can be life-threatening.
  • Cardiac arrhythmias: Low calcium levels can disrupt the normal electrical activity of the heart, leading to irregular heart rhythms.
  • Tetany-induced fractures: Prolonged muscle contractions can put excessive strain on the bones, increasing the risk of fractures.

In conclusion, tetany is a condition characterized by muscle spasms and contractions due to low calcium levels in the blood. It can be caused by various factors, including vitamin D deficiency, hypoparathyroidism, and kidney disorders. Treatment involves restoring calcium levels through supplementation and addressing the underlying causes. By understanding the symptoms, causes, prevention, and management of tetany, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain optimal calcium levels and prevent complications.

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