Tetany

by Sam Malone

Tetany is a term for the involuntary contraction of muscles which may be caused due to diseases or other health conditions. It is characterized by muscle spasms, cramps or tremors. These spasms happen repetitively when the muscles contract uncontrollably. Tetany can occur in muscles of the face, calves or fingers. Cramps of the muscles due to tetany can be painful and long lasting. This particular ailment is caused due to low calcium levels in the blood stream. If calcium levels dip to less than 50% of its normal value, action potentials may be created, thus causing involuntary contraction of the peripheral muscles.

Although low levels of calcium are usually the cause of tetany, there are other reasons responsible for this condition. These are:

  • Milk-and Alkali Tetany: An electrolyte imbalance is known to cause a form of this ailment. Cramps of this particular form of tetany often occur in the wrists and in the arms or legs. A simple home remedy to alleviate the symptoms is to take an alkali such as soda bicarbonate and follow it with a glass of milk.
  • Low Levels of Carbon Dioxide: This can also be caused due to hyperventilation or a physiological condition known as metabolic acidosis, which makes a person breathe faster or deeper than usual, resulting in deprivation of circulating carbon dioxide. Due to the abnormal breathing, the release of carbon dioxide to the blood is reduced. The blood’s ph levels increase making the body alkaline, which in turn constrict the blood vessels to the brain. These blood vessels are responsible for carrying oxygen and other properties that are necessary for the nervous system to function. This chain reaction causes flexor spasms in the hand and feet, apart from other symptoms. To help with breathing due to hyperventilation, take a small paper bag, place it over your nose and mouth and take 6 to 12 easy and natural breaths. Then remove the bag from your mouth and nose and take easy normal breaths. Continue this till your hyperventilation eases. Do not use a bag if you have lung or heart problems; also never use a plastic bag as a replacement for a paper bag.
  • Under-functioning of the Parathyroid Gland: Parathyroid glands are little endocrine glands in the neck that creates parathyroid hormones. The parathyroid gland is responsible for the control of the amounts of calcium in the blood and within the bones. When the parathyroid glands don’t function well, calcium levels drop to below the required amounts and the result is tetany. To treat hyperthyroidism, surgery to remove the parathyroid tumors is performed. This sometimes results in acute dysfunction of the remaining parathyroid glands, which cause hypoparathyroidism and severe hypocalcaemia. The sudden hypocalcaemia can cause fatal tetany.
Apart from these reasons, tetany can also be caused due to low levels of magnesia, Clostridium tetani toxin, re-birthing breath work, and an excess of potassium in grass, hay or pasture.

The cures or treatment for tetany depends on the underlying disease or condition. In most cases, since it is caused due to a calcium deficiency, calcium is intravenously administered to the patient. For short-term home remedies for muscle cramps or spasms, you can do the following:

  • Take a 2 or 3 teaspoons of sesame oil and gently massage the affected muscle area.
  • If you have cramps in the foot, soak your feet for a good 10 minutes in a warm of bucket of water, with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, 1/4th cup of ginger powder and 2/3rd cup of baking soda added to it.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially ones with electrolytes. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.
  • Consume fresh fruits and vegetable to get your daily mineral and nutrient intake.

Home remedies are not a substitute for medical treatment. Consult your doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment for tetany.

References
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK376/

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
More articles from the General Health & fitness Category