Channelopathy is a term used to describe clinical problems caused by disorders of membrane ion channels. Included in this disease category are certain types of periodic paralyses, ataxia, myotonia, migraine headache, epilepsy, nephrolithiasis, and long QT syndrome. This article briefly summarizes membrane ion channel structure and function and details several relatively common channelopathies. In hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, mutant skeletal muscle sodium channels fail to close completely after an action potential. This evokes two apparently opposite symptoms: myotonia (caused by a small depolarization and repetitive excitation) or paralysis (caused by larger depolarization and inexcitability). In hypokalemic periodic paralysis, mutation affects the closing of skeletal muscle calcium channels, causing transient paresis or paralysis. The task of the advanced practice nurse is to recognize these disorders, institute appropriate prophylactic measures and treatments, monitor symptom progression, and avoid complications. Understanding of channelopathies is advancing rapidly. On the horizon are therapies tailored to counter specific membrane ion channel defects.

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