Today's Interesting Medical Fact of the Week is about thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, a curious malady occurring mainly in men of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean Thai and Filipino descent - and Native Americans are also at greater risk, as they share a genetic background with East Asian people. The condition causes attacks of muscle weakness and paralysis and usually occurs in the presence of high thyroid hormone levels (hyperthyroidism) and low potassium levels (hypokalemia).
The attacks of paralysis can be brought on by exercise, drinking alcohol and eating food high in carbohydrates or salt, and they can be dangerous if they lead to respiratory failure or irregular heartbeat. This condition can be treated by first correcting the hypokalemia, then the hyperthyroidism; once treatment has achieved normal thyroid levels, this usually leads to a complete resolution of the problem.
Thyrotoxic period paralysis is commonly associated with Graves Disease, although other illnesses which lead to high thyroid levels (including TSH-producing pituitary adenoma... yay!) can also cause the condition. It's not fully understood and there is still confusion over why males are predominantly affected despite the fact that overactive thyroid problems are more common in women.