Paroxysmal attacks in various disorders have been reported extensively and ephaptic coupling of demyelinatednerves has been presumed as one of the underlying mechanisms of this phenomenon. This is supported by the presence of these attacks in multiple sclerosis and tabes dorsalis, which both involve demyelination of spinal cord neurons. Exercise, tactile stimuli, hot water, anxiety and neck flexion may provoke paroxysmal attacks. Most reported paroxysmal attacks are painful tonic spasms, dysarthria and ataxia, numbness and hemiparesis. They are typically different from other transient symptoms by their brevity (lasting no more than 2 minutes), frequency (from 1-2 times/day up to a few hundred times/day), stereotyped fashion and excellent response to drugs (usually carbamazepine). Withdrawal of symptoms without any residual neurological finding is another key feature in their recognition.
The word paroxysm means "sudden attack, outburst", and comes from the Greek παροξυσμός (paroxusmos), "irritation, exasperation".