Myopathy

The Definition of Myopathy Image

Myopathy is a general term used to describe a number of neuromuscular conditions marked by weak, deteriorated muscles. Literally translated from Greek to mean “muscle suffering,” myopathy ravages the body as it causes muscles to break down, triggering symptoms that include mild to severe pain, cramps and muscle spasms. While some myopathy patients are born with this disease, others develop it during their lifetimes.

Types of Myopathy

Because myopathy is a broad term that describes a body of muscular diseases, medical experts diagnose and treat myopathy cases based on the particular type of myopathy a patient has. Here is a quick look at some of the different types of myopathy and the unique features of each disorder:

  • Congenital myopathy:This condition refers to those born with myopathy. These patients typically have abnormal skeletal and facial structures, as well as a retarded development of their motor skills.
  • Dermatomyositis: This type of myopathy causes general skin and muscle swelling.
  • Mitochondrial myopathy: Genetic defects cause people born with this type of myopathy to suffer from vision and hearing problems, learning disabilities and/or epilepsy.
  • Neuromyotonia: This disease causes muscles to alternate between stints of twitching and stiffness.

This list is by no means exhaustive. A number of other, rare forms of myopathy exist.

Myopathy Risk Factors

For those not born with myopathy, developing this disorder later in life may be a possibility. However, not everyone is at the same risk of developing myopathy: Certain risk factors can increase the probability that some will eventually come down with this condition. These risk factors for myopathy include:

  • having an autoimmune disorder, such as HIV/AIDS or MG (a debilitating skeletal disorder.)
  • having an endocrine disorder (Endocrine disorders affect the glands that produce hormones and, therefore, the presence of hormones in the body.)
  • suffering from Lyme disease or trichinosis (Trichinosis is an infection caused by eating raw pork and other meats.)
  • suffering from a Vitamin A, D or E deficiency or overdose.
  • taking certain medications (Some medication carries the negative side effect of causing myopathy).

If you fall into any of these categories, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of myopathy and talk to your doctor about your risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms of Myopathy

Although the precise symptoms a myopathy patient will exhibit depend on the exact type of myopathy he has, possible symptoms can include any combination of the following:

  • developmental disorders
  • fatigue
  • general inflammation
  • muscle stiffness
  • muscle weakness
  • seizures
  • skeletal abnormalities
  • spasms
  • twitching.

While doctors can generally diagnose congenital myopathy early on in a child’s life, those at risk for developing myopathy will need to be aware of its symptoms. If you start experiencing the symptoms of myopathy, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and immediate treatment.

Myopathy Treatments

Because myopathy comes in various types, treatments revolve around the exact type of myopathy a person has. The right course of treatment for you will depend on your:

  • age
  • family medical history
  • personal medical history
  • severity of myopathy
  • type of myopathy.

Doctors typically design treatment plans that include some combination of the following:

  • Medications: Corticosteroids and other types of anti-inflammatory medication can relieve the swelling and pain associated with myopathy. Studies have proven that boys with myopathy can walk better and are stronger after taking myopathy medications for six months. Common medications prescribed for myopathy include deflazacrot and prednisone. Side effects may include depression, osteoporosis and hypertension.
  • Physical therapy: Practicing certain exercises and wearing braces are the key ways in which physical therapy can treat myopathy. Over time, physical therapy can minimize and help patients deal with muscle spasms, stiffness and general pain. In addition to treating myopathy, physical therapy can be used to prevent this condition. If you are at risk of developing myopathy, consult a physical therapist for preventative options.
  • Therapy and/or support groups: Along with combating the physical effects of myopathy, doctors recommend that you take measures to treat the mental and emotional effects of having this condition. As those with myopathy suffer pain and watch their bodies deteriorate, they can become depressed and suicidal. Seeing a therapist and going to support groups with other myopathy patients can help you talk about your concerns and fears.

Myopathy Prognosis

The prognosis for myopathy depends on the type of myopathy you have. While those born with congenital myopathy will never be cured of this condition, those who develop it later in life have a better prognosis. If another underlying medical condition is causing your myopathy, treating that condition can cure your myopathy.

Similarly, if taking certain medications is causing your myopathy, your doctor may recommend that you stop taking them and switch to alternative medications.

In general, the later in life someone develops myopathy, the better the prognosis is for reversing and/or curing it.

Resources

National Institute of Neurological Disorders (updated November 13, 2007). Myopathy Information Page. Retrieved January 3, 2008, from the NINDS Web site: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myopathy/myopathy.htm.

Neurology Channel (updated July 9, 2007). Myopathies. Retrieved January 3, 2008, from the Neurology Channel Web site: http://www.neurologychannel.com/myopathies/treatment.shtml.