Muscular System Disorders: Overview and More

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Muscles are important structures in the human body. Muscles produce the force necessary to move and function. Muscle disease is any disease that affects a person's muscular system.

Primary muscle diseases are the result of abnormalities in the muscles themselves. Secondary muscle disease is caused by another medical condition that may or may not have caused a muscle disease.

Both types of diseases affect the muscles and sometimes the nerves that feed them. Because of this, both can eventually lead to muscle atrophy or muscle wasting. This can lead to loss of strength and function in one or more muscles. Sometimes paralysis can occur.

This article will focus on primary and secondary muscle diseases. Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of muscle diseases will also be discussed.

Patrick Giardino / Getty Images.

About the muscular system

All of your movements – talking, walking, sitting, standing, and even blinking – are controlled by your muscles.

You even have muscles that you are not aware of. Examples include muscles that control your posture and constrict blood vessels.

There are more than 600 muscles in the human body. There are also three types of recognized muscles. Each of the three types has its own specific functions.

  • Skeletal muscle : These muscles are connected to the bones by tendons. Tendons are flexible but strong tissue ligaments. Bones move when skeletal muscles contract and pull on tendons. Bones are also connected to other bones by ligaments . They are like tendons and help hold the skeleton together. Myopathies are diseases that affect skeletal muscle.
  • Smooth muscle: This type of muscle is responsible for muscle actions that are involuntary or uncontrollable. Smooth muscles exist in places like the stomach, intestines, and blood vessels. These muscles perform the tasks your body needs to function.
  • Cardiac muscle: The cardiac muscle is a type of muscle marked by dark and light oblique branches. These branches are composed of elongated fibers. The heart muscle is located in the heart and is responsible for coordinated involuntary contractions. This is what allows the heart to pump blood efficiently. The heart is the only muscle in the body that contracts continuously.

Each type of muscle has a specific purpose. You walk with skeletal muscles. The food is digested thanks to the smooth muscles. Your heart beats due to the heart muscle.

Different types of muscles work together. When you run, you use your skeletal muscles to move your limbs. Heart muscle makes your heart beat and smooth muscle helps you breathe.

Primary muscle diseases

Primary muscle diseases are caused by muscle abnormalities. Muscle disease is considered primary if it occurs on its own and is not due to any other comorbid condition.

Some conditions can arise as primary or secondary diseases.

Polymyositis

Myositis is the inflammation of the muscles and associated tissues, including the blood vessels. Polymyositis (PM) is a rare type of myositis. PM is most common in people over the age of 20, more often in women.

PM is characterized by inflammation and muscle weakness. A person with this condition may experience falls and problems standing after falls. Other symptoms include a chronic dry cough and / or difficulty swallowing .

PM has no known cause and there is no cure for the condition. Fortunately, the condition can be treated.

Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis (DM) is a rare inflammatory muscle disease. It can affect people of any age and gender, although it is more common in women.

Common symptoms of DM include:

  • Characteristic rash
  • Muscular weakness
  • Swollen and painful muscles

As with other inflammatory myopathies, the cause is unknown. There is no cure, but the disease can be treated with medications and other treatments.

Summary

Myositis is a term used to describe muscle inflammation. Inflammatory muscle diseases such as polymyositis and dermatomyositis are incurable, but treatable.

Muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (DM) is a group of inherited myopathies. All of these conditions cause muscle loss and weakness.

Some types of DM appear during infancy or childhood. Others may appear only in middle age or even later.

Symptoms depend on the type of MD. They may differ depending on the muscle groups and the people they affect.

All forms of DM deteriorate over time. Most people lose the ability to walk. There is no cure for a bowel movement, but the symptoms can be cured. Treatment can also prevent complications.

Treatment includes:

Some people with DM have mild symptoms that progress slowly. Others have severe symptoms of disability.

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease. Neuromuscular diseases are caused by problems with the nerves and muscles that work together.

In people with MG, the immune system mistakenly attacks the receptors that allow nerve cells and muscles to communicate. This interferes with the transmission of nerve signals to the muscles, causing muscle weakness.

MG is the most common chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease. This affects 20 out of 100,000 people.

The main symptom of MG is voluntary weakness of the skeletal muscle. There is no cure for MG, but treatment can control the activity of the immune system .

Opinions about MG are different for each person. Some people have only mild symptoms. Others may be disabled. Early treatment can limit the progression of the disease.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also called Lou Gehrig's disease. This group of rare neurological diseases affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

ALS affects the muscles involved in voluntary movement. Most cases are diagnosed in people between the ages of 40 and 70.

It is estimated that at least 16,000 Americans are affected by the condition. There is no cure for ALS, and symptoms get worse over time.

Treatment can help control symptoms and prevent complications. However, the typical life expectancy is only a few years after diagnosis.

Treatment for ALS includes:

  • Medicine
  • Speech therapy
  • Physiotherapy

In severe cases, patients may require nutritional and respiratory support.

Summary

Myasthenia gravis and ALS belong to neuromuscular diseases. These diseases are caused by problems with the nerves that control the muscles.

Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is a disease that causes the destruction of skeletal muscle. This breakdown causes the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream.

Myoglobin is a protein that stores oxygen in muscles. Too much myoglobin in the blood can damage the kidneys.

Causes of rhabdomyolysis include:

  • Injury
  • Infection and inflammation
  • Medicines
  • Toxins
  • Genetic and metabolic disorders.

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and the presence of complications. Kidney damage from rhabdomyolysis can be irreversible.

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy, also called heart muscle disease, is a condition that affects the heart muscle.

In cardiomyopathy, the heart becomes enlarged, thickened, and / or abnormally stiff. This prevents the heart muscle from pumping blood efficiently.

Ultimately, this can lead to heart failure . Blood and fluids can flow back to the lungs and other parts of the body. Cardiomyopathy can also cause irregular heart rhythms and heart valve problems .

Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia, also called geriatric muscle disease, is common in older people. Other types of muscle diseases are less common in older people. The risk of sarcopenia in adults 65 to 70 years of age is approximately 14%. This risk is 53% in people over 80 years of age.

Sarcopenia causes loss of muscle mass and strength. Risk factors include:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Chronic illness
  • Reduced hormone levels

In some people, muscle weakness comes on suddenly. For others, it happens slowly, over many years.

Sarcopenia can be diagnosed in a number of ways, including:

Physical therapy, diet improvement, and medications can improve the condition.

Summary

The elderly become more susceptible to sarcopenia with age. Poor diet, chronic disease, and low hormone levels are believed to contribute to this risk.

Secondary muscle diseases

Sometimes muscle diseases are the result of other, more serious conditions. They can appear in many different conditions, including:

Primary muscle disorders, which can also be secondary to another health condition, include:

  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Myopathy
  • Myositis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Sarcopenia

Some secondary muscle diseases can even affect the respiratory muscles.

Secondary conditions can affect a muscle, a group of muscles, or an entire muscular system. They can be permanent or temporary. The person may experience mild or severe symptoms.

Secondary muscle diseases are diagnosed in the same way as primary diseases. Treatment includes addressing the underlying cause and treating a secondary condition.

Symptoms of diseases of the muscular system.

One of the first signs of muscle problems is muscle weakness . This means that the muscles lack strength and cannot do their job. Many diseases can cause muscle weakness.

Muscle pain that improves with home therapy is usually not a cause for concern. Pain caused by a serious injury or a serious illness that affects the whole body often requires medical attention.

Get immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

People with muscle problems may also experience muscle cramps, cramps, or spasms .

Other symptoms of muscle disease include:

If you experience muscle weakness, see your doctor. Anyone who suddenly has severe muscle weakness should seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of muscle diseases

There are many different causes of muscle disease. Some muscle diseases are genetic in nature. Genetic conditions can be inherited or be the result of a new genetic mutation in the affected person.

Some muscle diseases are autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks its own healthy muscle tissue.

Sometimes the cause of muscle disease is unknown.

Additional causes of muscle disease include:

  • Overuse or injury to muscles
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Infections
  • Nervous diseases
  • Medicines

Regardless of the cause, most muscle diseases are incurable. However, treatment can help control a person's symptoms and pain, help maintain mobility, and improve quality of life.

Diagnosis of muscle diseases.

Muscle diseases are often diagnosed using electromyography (EMG). EMG measures the electrical activity of the muscles. This can help identify neuromuscular disorders.

EMG can diagnose a number of problems, including:

  • Muscle disorders
  • Motor and nervous problems
  • Degenerative diseases or diseases that get worse over time.

During the EMG test, a thin needle called an electrode is inserted into the skin and muscle tissue. Once the needle is in place, the patient is asked to contract or relax the muscles. The electrode detects electrical activity.

A nerve conduction speed test can be performed using an EMG. This test measures the speed of electrical impulses that travel along your nerves. This can help determine if the cause of your symptoms is a muscle disorder or a nerve disorder.

If your doctor suspects that you have a muscle disorder, a muscle strength test may be performed. This helps determine if there is muscle weakness or other muscle problems.

Additional tests may include:

  • Blood tests to measure muscle antibodies and enzymes that may be specific for one or more diseases.
  • A muscle biopsy , where a small sample of muscle tissue is sent for analysis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify areas of abnormal muscles

Treatment of muscular diseases.

Most diseases of the muscular system are incurable. The good news is that they can often be treated and controlled.

Treatment goals may include relieving symptoms, slowing disease progression, and improving quality of life.

Treatment may include drug therapy. This can include immunosuppressants , medications that reduce or prevent an overactive immune system. These medications can be used to treat certain muscle and nerve disorders. They can also be used for conditions that affect both nerves and muscles.

Corticosteroids and other medications may be prescribed to relieve muscle spasms and spasms .

Your healthcare provider may also recommend physical therapy and professional therapy to treat symptoms and, if necessary, surgery to correct muscle damage.

Summary

Muscle diseases can occur alone or as a result of other conditions. There are many different types of muscle diseases, including conditions that cause muscle inflammation and neuromuscular conditions.

People with muscle problems may experience muscle weakness, problems with movement and balance, and other symptoms such as numbness, droopy eyelids, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Muscle diseases have many causes, including genetic and autoimmune causes. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Muscle diseases are often diagnosed with a test that measures the electrical activity of the muscles. These disorders are usually incurable, but many can be treated.

Get the word of drug information

The outlook for people with most muscle conditions could be positive. In many cases, treatment can effectively treat most symptoms, including muscle pain and weakness.

Your long-term outlook will depend on your condition and its effect on muscle function. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your condition, helpful treatments, and your prognosis.

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