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Muscular atrophy
Muscular atrophy


Definition:

Spasms are contractions of the hands, thumbs, feet, or toes that are sometimes seen with muscle cramps , twitching, and convulsions (tetany). Spasms are usually brief, but they can be severe and painful.



Alternative Names:

Foot spasms; Carpopedal spasm; Spasms of the hands or feet



Considerations:

Spasms of the hands or feet may be an important early sign of tetany, a potentially life-threatening condition. Tetany is due to a problem with the body's calcium levels, which can be linked to the following:

The spasms are usually accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, or a "pins-and-needles" feeling
  • Twitching
  • Uncontrolled, purposeless, rapid motions


Common Causes:
  • Muscle cramps , usually caused by sports or occupational muscle injury
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels in the blood)
  • Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels in the blood)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Dystonia
  • Huntington's disease
  • Hyperventilation -- calcium becomes temporarily less available to the body during hyperventilation
  • Damage to a single nerve or nerve group (mononeuropathy ) or multiple nerves (polyneuropathy) that are connected to muscles
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Use of certain medications


Home Care:

If vitamin D deficiency is the cause, supplemental vitamin D should be taken under the doctor's direction. Calcium supplements may also help.



Call your health care provider if:

If you notice recurrent spasms of your hands or feet, call your health care provider.



What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination. Laboratory testing of blood and urine may also be done.

Medical history questions documenting hand or foot spasms in detail may include the following:

  • Do the spasms appear to be involuntary or purposeless?
  • Are they prolonged?
  • At what age did the spasms first appear?
  • Does the presence of spasms seem variable over weeks to months?
  • Do spasms occur repeatedly (recurrent)?
  • Do several spasms occur in a row (repetitive)?
  • Are the spasms slow or rapid?
  • Can the spasms be voluntarily suppressed?
  • How long have you had spasms?
  • Is it worse when you exercise?
  • How much calcium-containing food do you eat (such as milk products)?
  • What have you done to try to treat the spasms? How effective was it?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
    • Do you have numbness or a "pins-and-needles" feeling?
    • Do you have muscle weakness?
    • Do you have fatigue?
    • Do you have muscle cramps elsewhere?
    • Do you have seizures?

Tests may include the following:



References:

Griggs RC, Józefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 418.




Review Date: 9/26/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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