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(tĕt`ənē), condition of mineral imbalance in the body that results in severe muscle spasms. Tetany occurs when the concentration of calcium ions (Ca++) in extracellular fluids such as plasma falls below normal. The nervous system becomes increasingly excitable, and nerves discharge spontaneously, sending impulses to skeletal muscles and causing spasmodic contractions. Mild tetany is characterized by tingling in the fingers, toes, and lips; acute tetany, consisting of severe muscular contractions, tremors, and cramps, can result in death. Abnormally low extracellular calcium ion concentration can result from failure of the parathyroid glandsparathyroid glands
, four small endocrine bodies, located behind the thyroid gland, that govern calcium and phosphorus metabolism. These four masses of tissue (each about the size of a pea) are difficult to distinguish from the thyroid and are often embedded in it.
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 to release parathyroid hormone, the substance responsible for the regulation of calcium concentration in the body; a deficiency in vitamin D, which facilitates calcium ion absorption from the gastrointestinal tract; or alkalosis, an excessively alkaline state of body fluids resulting from persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, or excess activity of the hormone aldosteronealdosterone
, steroid secreted by the cortex of the adrenal gland. It is the most potent hormone regulating the body's electrolyte balance. Aldosterone acts directly on the kidney to decrease the rate of sodium-ion excretion (with accompanying retention of water), and to
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. Most forms of tetany can be treated with calcium, vitamin D, and a controlled diet. Muscle tetany is also caused by the pathogenic bacterium Clostridium tetani in the disease tetanustetanus
or lockjaw,
acute infectious disease of the central nervous system caused by the toxins of Clostridium tetani. The organism has a widespread distribution and is common in the soil, human and animal feces, and the digestive tracts of animals and humans;
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a spasm, or cramp, caused by a disturbance in the body’s calcium metabolism. Such spasms may be parathyroprival—that is, they may result from insufficiency or complete absence of function of the parathyroid glands (either because of surgical removal or because of an inflammation or other pathological condition)—or may be caused by fluid loss owing to repeated vomiting or diarrhea (also called gastrointestinal tetany).

The principal manifestations of tetany are tonic muscular spasms of varying duration in different parts of the body, increased electromechanical excitability of the motor and sensory nerves, and increased excitability of the autonomic nervous system leading to the malfunction of internal organs. During an attack of tetany, sudden death may occur from asphyxia or heart failure. In latent tetany, an attack may be provoked by some factor such as infection or intoxication. Treatment of tetany is based on replacement therapy—that is, the injection of such substances as parathyroid hormone or calcium preparations.


Shereshevskii, N. A. Klinicheskaia endokrinologiia. Moscow, 1957. Pages 116–31.


A state of increased neuromuscular irritability caused by a decrease of serum calcium, manifested by intermittent numbness and cramps or twitchings of the extremities, laryngospasm, bizarre behavior, loss of consciousness, and convulsions.
References in periodicals archive ?
Then came four weeks at the hospital's University Campus, interspersed with three unsuccessful trips to Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital, where episodes of tetany kept leading to emergency ambulance trips back to the University Campus.
Animal in this stage is still standing and signs observed include loss of appetite, excitability, tetany, nervousness, hypersensitivity, weakness, ataxia, weight shifting, shuffling of hind feet, muscle tremors of hind limbs, ear twitching, protrusion of tongue and grinding of teeth.
Cattlemen have long known magnesium deficiency can result in a condition known as "grass tetany.
aspx Symptoms and signs in children Infants Seizures, tetany and cardiomyopathy Children Aches and pains; myopathy causing delayed walking; rickets with bowed legs, knock knees, poor growth and muscle weakness Adolescents Aches and pains, muscle weakness, bone changes of rickets or osteomalacia
Its clinical manifestations range from minimal twitching to life-threatening tetany.
Hypocalcemic myopathy without tetany due to idiopathic hypoparathyroidism: case report.
Symptoms are often mixed with those of the underlying illness but may include cardiac dysrhythmias, confusion, convulsions, muscle cramp and tetany.
Parenteral magnesium is known to be an effective treatment for the seizures of neonatal tetany, and possibly for those associated with ethanol withdrawal.
Mg is an important element in the prevention of magnesium tetany condition in livestock.
Calcium may cause weakened bones, slow growth and tetany (convulsions).
Extremely low serum calcium (hypocalcemia) may result in tetany, or muscle spasms.