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Question:

From Maryland, USA:

My 5 year-old son has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 15 months old. We have not had any complications and his doctors are amazed that he is under such good control.

Two years ago, he woke up about 5:00am with a what we thought to be a low blood sugar. When we checked it, it was 72. He showed every sign of having a low sugar reaction, so I treated him accordingly, giving him some orange juice. I then noticed the right side of his body was not moving and he could not walk. When a pinched him on that side, he did not feel it. Still giving him OJ and crackers, we rushed him to the nearest hospital which was 30 minutes away (we were on vacation). By the time we got there he could move and showed no symptoms of paralysis. The hospital did a blood work up and found that his potassium was low. The doctor in the ER said that this with the low sugar level was the reason of what he called Todd's Paralysis.

When we got home we took him to Bethesda Naval Medical Center, since he is a Navy dependent, and the his doctor there did not seemed concerned. About a year and a half later the same thing happened at home. Our local doctors did not seemed worried about it and when I asked that his potassium level be checked it was again low. They put some through a IV, but it began to burn my sons arm, so they made him drink a small amount.

Does the low potassium levels have anything to do with this paralysis? What is Todd's Paralysis? Does it damage the brain at all and what does it have to do with his Diabetes?

I would love to hear from others who have had this problem, so please publish my E-Mail address. Thank you.

Mom in Maryland (mlell@olg.com)

Answer:

Todd's paralysis refers to the transient paralysis of a part of the body which can occur after a seizure. The seizure can be caused by low blood sugar, or can be caused by other problems such as epilepsy or other chemical imbalances in the blood. The paralysis usually does not last more than 24 hours, should completely resolve and is not usually indicative of any permanent brain damage.

Transient paralysis can also be caused by low potassium levels in the blood unrelated to blood sugar level. Although insulin and blood sugar can affect potassium levels in the blood, the level of potassium in the blood is usually normal after a low blood sugar episode.

I would suggest checking the potassium level in the blood when the blood sugar is normal and your child is feeling fine. If it is low, I would consult with a pediatric endocrinologist to look for other causes such as an overactive thyroid or excess amount of the hormone aldosterone, which can also be associated with high blood pressure.

TGL

Original posting 1 Jan 97

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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