Paroxysm: Definition, Various Symptoms And its Examples of Dangerous Disorders and Related Diseases.

Paroxysm Definition

Paroxysm, also known as a paroxysmal attack, is a recurrence of symptoms that occurs suddenly. Paroxysms may develop as a result of a variety of medical disorders, and the symptoms of a paroxysm change depending on the disease. Multiple sclerosis, pertussis (whooping cough), epilepsy, and asthma are among the medical diseases that may cause paroxysms. The term paroxysm appears in the names of certain medical disorders because it is a key component of these conditions, such as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the heart’s atria lose their rhythm and beat erratically.

A quick explosion of emotion, such as laughter or fury, is referred to as a paroxysm.

Examples of Paroxysmal Disorders

Paroxysmal Dyskinesias

Movement disorders known as paroxysmal dyskinesias (PD) Only during a paroxysmal episode can a person with PD have aberrant movements. There are four kinds of paroxysmal movements linked with Parkinson’s disease, and a person may experience one or more of them. They are as follows:

  • Dystonic means “pattern-like” and “repetitive.” 
  • Choreic: a kind of fidgeting that is rapid and involuntary.
  • Ballistic motion entails the movement of whole limbs, such as the hip and knee.
  • Athetoid: sluggish, usually involving the hands.

PD may be inherited, although it can also manifest itself in a sporadic manner. It’s caused by the basal ganglia, a portion of the brain that controls motor movements, not working properly. The specific reasons, however, remain unknown.

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (Paroxysmal AFib) is a disorder in which the atria (the heart’s two upper chambers) beat erratically instead of in a regular rhythm over a period of minutes to days. Cardiac damage from heart disease or hypertension may produce paroxysmal AFib. An overactive thyroid, cardiac valve abnormalities, excessive drinking, insufficient potassium, or stimulants like coffee may also cause it. Lightheadedness, feeling one’s heart thumping, and chest discomfort are all symptoms of paroxysmal AFib. More severe problems, such as strokes, blood clots, or even heart failure, might arise if the condition is not addressed.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo) is a condition in which patients have a mistaken feeling of spinning for short periods of time. Patients may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, and nausea. It’s produced by calcium carbonate crystals in the inner ear dislodging, which is the part of the body that transmits balancing signals to the brain. This fools the brain into thinking the head is moving when it isn’t, resulting in a spinning feeling. Although most instances have no obvious explanation, BPPV has been linked to ear infections, migraine headaches, diabetes, and osteoporosis. To put the crystals back into position, they are treated with directed head motions.

Other Conditions that Feature Paroxysms

These are instances of medical diseases that aren’t characterised by paroxysmal behaviour, but may lead to them.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which the nerves in the brain and spinal cord gradually deteriorate. It is a progressive condition that generally begins between the ages of 20 and 50 and has no treatment. Many MS symptoms are paroxysmal, meaning they develop and go in a matter of seconds or minutes. Itching, tingling, and burning sensations; arm and limb aches; spasms; loss of coordination; and speech and visual impairments are among them.


There are three phases of pertussis, or whooping cough: catarrhal, paroxysmal, and convalescent. A person suffering from the catarrhal stage would have a mild temperature and coughing spells. Coughs become paroxysmal at the paroxysmal stage; they are violent and come in brief bursts, and they occur on average 15 times each day. A person will gradually recover during the convalescent period, although paroxysms might recur for months later.


Epilepsy is a persistent neurological condition marked by recurrent seizures. Epilepsy may be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, tumours, strokes, head traumas, and congenital abnormalities. Neurons in the brain fire incorrectly during a seizure, resulting in excessive brain activity. In a paroxysmal depolarizing shift, the neurons become depolarized, causing a person to tremble uncontrollably for seconds to minutes. It is managed by taking medicine on a regular basis.

The cause of aberrant brain waves in a person with epilepsy is determined using an EEG cap.


Asthma is an inflammatory condition that damages the lungs’ airways and makes breathing difficult for brief periods of time. Asthmatics have abrupt bouts of wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing, which generally occur at night. Inhalers containing medicine are used to treat asthma attacks. They may be avoided by avoiding specific triggers, like cigarette smoke or having pets.

Related Biology Terms 

  • Dyskinesia is a movement disease characterised by involuntary movements and a loss of voluntary movement control.
  • Fibrillation – Muscle fibre contractions that are irregular. 
  • A change in electrical charge in neurons that happens during an epileptic seizure is known as a paroxysmal depolarizing shift.
  • The basal ganglia is a region of the brain that controls movement, procedural learning, habits, and emotions.

Question and Answer

1.Paroxysms play a role in all of the following medical conditions except:

  1. Asthma
  2. Pertussis
  3. Diabetes
  4. Multiple sclerosis

C is correct. Diabetes is a disease where people can have high blood sugar levels because their bodies do not produce enough insulin. It is not characterized by paroxysms. Asthma, pertussis, and MS all have paroxysmal symptoms. In asthma, the paroxysms are of shortness of breath; in pertussis, paroxysmal coughing occurs; and in MS, paroxysms may include spasms, pain, and speech and vision problems.

2. What is paroxysmal atrial fibrillation?

  1. The heart beats irregularly for short periods of time.
  2. Nerves in the brain and spinal cord become damaged over time.
  3. Abnormal movements occur.
  4. A spinning sensation is felt when the body is not moving.

A is correct. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is characterized by short periods of irregular heartbeat. Choice B refers to multiple sclerosis, C refers to paroxysmal dyskinesia, and D refers to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

3. Which is NOT a stage of pertussis?

  1. Catarrhal
  2. Vestigial
  3. Convalescent
  4. Paroxysmal

B is correct. The three stages of pertussis in order are: catarrhal, paroxysmal, and convalescent. Catarrhal is the stage during which symptoms begin to occur. The paroxysmal stage is characterized by bursts of coughing, and the convalescent stage is when people begin to recover from pertussis (although paroxysms can still occur).

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