Neuromuscular disorders affect the muscles, nerves or both, or even possibly the connection between the two, the neuromuscular junction. Individuals of all ages can develop muscular problems. Symptoms can include muscle weakness, paralysis, breathing problems, numbness, and pain. These disorders can be progressive, and in some cases, rarely are fatal. People with such a disorder, as well as their families and loved ones, often experience a dramatic change in their quality of life.
Achieving an accurate diagnosis is very important in the management of muscular problems.
Tests performed for an accurate diagnosis may include:
- A complete history and neurological exam
- Nerve conduction study and EMG (electromyography)
- Skin biopsy to look at tissue more closely
- Nerve and muscle pathology to check for disease
Common neuromuscular disorders include:
The peripheral nervous system takes information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Damage to this system can be hereditary or acquired. At times, only one nerve may be damaged, while at others, multiple nerves can be damaged. Different parts of the body can be affected depending on the number and location of damaged nerves. Typical symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. Many times, the disorder is treatable. Other types are progressive. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. Each type has its own set of symptoms and prognosis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, ulnar neuropathies, and other focal nerve injuries and entrapments.
These types of nerve injuries are quite common and treatment ranges from simple splinting to surgical transposition of the nerve. Correct treatment starts of course with correct diagnosis and we are experts at that.
The main symptom of myopathy is muscle weakness or pain due to dysfunction of the muscle fiber. There are many types of this disorder, some of which are treatable. Again, accurate diagnosis is very important to assure that the correct treatment is provided.
Myasthenia gravis is the most common neuromuscular junction disorder, a disease that causes muscles of the body to weaken. People with these disorders may experience double vision, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and fatigue. Symptoms can almost always be controlled with treatment. However, if untreated, the condition can be progressive, causing respiratory failure in very serious cases. Myasthenia is treatable, but often requires the help of a physician especially trained in neuromuscular disease to have the specialty knowledge to be able to treat it efficiently.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. The onset of ALS may be so subtle that the earliest symptoms are overlooked. Symptoms can include cramps, stiff muscles, weakness in an arm or a leg, slurred and nasal speech, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. These early symptoms develop into more obvious weakness. Regardless of the part of the body first affected by the disease, muscle weakness will spread to other parts of the body as the disease progresses. The exact sequence of symptoms varies for each individual. Eventually, individuals will not be able to stand or walk, get in or out of bed on their own, or use their hands and arms. During later stages of the disease, people can have difficulty breathing. In most cases, ALS is ultimately fatal due to respiratory failure.
The exact treatment depends on the individual case, and may include:
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Medications– either intravenous or oral
- Nutritional support
- Cardiac care
The best way to manage a neuromuscular disorder is by receiving an accurate diagnosis followed by the best quality medical care. Medical care can delay progression and increase the quality of life for many people with neuromuscular problems. To maintain the highest quality of life after diagnosis, it’s very important to continue to following up with your doctor throughout treatment.