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Alternating Hemiplegia

What is Alternating Hemiplegia?

Alternating hemiplegia is a rare neurological disorder characterized by recurrent but temporary episodes of paralysis on one side of the body. The paralysis can affect eye movements, limbs, or facial muscles.

Alternating hemiplegia develops in childhood, usually before the first 4 years.

Types of Alternating Hemiplegia

The less severe form of alternating hemiplegia occurs primarily at night, when a child awakens, and is apparently related to migraine. These children usually have no other mental or neurological impairments.

The more severe form of alternating hemiplegia is indicated by paralysis, mental impairment, gait and balance impairment, excessive sweating, and changes in body temperature. Seizures can also be present.

Symptoms of Alternating Hemiplegia

Some common symptoms of alternating hemiplegia are:

  • mental impairment
  • balance and gait difficulties
  • excessive sweating
  • changes in body temperature

A person with alternating hemiplegia may also have seizures. Sleep helps in the recovery from the periods of paralysis but the paralysis can recur upon waking.

What Causes Alternating Hemiplegia?

The exact cause of alternating hemiplegia is unknown.

Can Alternating Hemiplegia be Treated?

Yes. Drug therapy including flunarizine may help to reduce the severity and duration of attacks of paralysis. Flunarizine is a calcium channel blocker.

What is the Prognosis?

Children with the benign form of alternating hemiplegia have a good prognosis. However, those who experience the more severe form have a poor prognosis because intellectual and mental capacity do not respond to drug therapy, and balance and gait problems continue. Over time, walking unassisted becomes difficult or impossible .

Alternating Hemiplegia statistics

Alternating hemiplegia is very rare. There are fewer than 100 diagnosed cases in the United States, and fewer than 240 diagnosed patients worldwide.

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