What Is Tetany

Tetany is a sign of medical relevance, much like fever, which acts as an indication that there is something wrong in the body. Tetany is not a disease per se, but it based on underlying causes that are not directly obvious. Now that what it’s not has been established, let’s discuss what it is.

Tetany is a combination of signs, characterized by involuntary muscular contractions. Being involuntary, there is no motor control over the contractions, and they can affect any muscles of the body. The result is usually cramping of the affected muscles, and pain might be associated with them. Never confuse Tetany with tetanus as these diseases are not related to each other and  muscle cramp caused by tetanus is not Tetany. Tetany can be defined as a disease indicator or a sign of low level of calcium in blood.

What are the causes of Tetany?

In most cases, tetany is associated with hypocalcaemia, or a very low level of calcium in the body. Calcium, as you already know, is one of the more important minerals needed in your body. Not only is it necessary for normal bone function, it is useful in neurotransmission. When the levels of calcium are low (at least by 50% of that amount required for normal function), action potentials increase, and their spontaneity causes muscular contractions.

Other causes of tetany include reduced performance of the parathyroid gland, dipped magnesium levels in the body, diarrhea, renal disease, malnutrition and Vitamin D deficiency.

What are the symptoms of tetany?

Besides the involuntary contraction of the peripheral muscles, there’s also cramping, which may be associated with abdominal pain, malaise (feeling of being unwell). There are more severe symptoms, such as seizures, loss of dexterity, and loss of basic cognitive functions such as talking or reading.

How is a diagnosis made?

A qualified physician makes the diagnosis based on things such as the severity of the tetany, the duration in which it has been experienced/had, the precise muscles of the body commonly affected and whether or not the tetany has been recurrent. Occlusion of the brachial artery through squeezing causes muscular contraction and cramps in the fingers. It’s one of the time-tested ways of making a quick diagnosis.

How can tetany be prevented?

Usually, maintaining an adequate daily intake of calcium is sufficient to keep the symptoms away. Generally, a healthy balanced diet is advised. Regular checkup to ensure healthy function of the parathyroid gland is also recommended.

If tetany is suspected, medical care should be sought immediately. This helps avert a disaster, incase the causes of the symptoms is something more serious, such as early stages of acute renal failure.


Tetany is more of a disease indicator, and not so much a disease itself. Regardless, the symptoms are undesired. In most cases, supplementing with calcium is enough to keep tetany away, especially when you don’t get enough of it from your diet.