Tetany is a generic term that refers to an involuntary contraction of certain muscles. Tetany may be due to an organic disorder and is sometimes identified in hypocalcemia or infectious diseases. These attacks occur mainly in adolescents, spontaneously with a total absence of problems between episodes. Tetany may be part of a wider pathology or be a symptom of hyperventilation. In a state of significant anxiety, accelerated breathing can be caused by physiological mechanisms, clinical signs suggestive of tetany.
Tetany causes the following symptoms:
- contractions lasting from a few minutes to a few hours of one or more muscles;
- contractions of the hands, where the fingers become deformed;
- bent toes;
- sometimes, cramps.
The diagnosis is based upon the description of the clinical signs by the patient, or the direct observation of the symptoms by the doctor, which is rare. A blood analysis measuring levels of calcium and sometimes an electromyogram to study spontaneous and stimulated activity of a muscle are sometimes prescribed.
The treatment depends on the cause of the tetany. If it is a lack of calcium, the rate will be adjusted. If it is one of the elements of hyperventilation, a treatment with breath control and long-term psychotherapy or any anxiety medications are sometimes necessary.