What Are the Different Types of Muscular System Diseases?

David Bishop

The human body's muscular system is the set of internal tissue responsible for movement and coordination. This system can be affected by several diseases and disorders that can damage muscle tissue and greatly impact a patient's quality of life. Some of the more common muscular system diseases as of 2011 are muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, Lou Gehrig's disease and neuropathy. While brain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's disease can manifest as a lack of muscle control, these are not properly classified as muscular system diseases.

An illustration of the human muscular system.
An illustration of the human muscular system.

Muscular dystrophy is a serious degenerative disorder in which a patient's muscle strength gradually weakens over time. Patients with muscular dystrophy may experience muscular atrophy and a loss of control of one or more muscle groups. This is an inherited condition with no cure. Some sufferers may lose the ability to walk or experience potentially deadly complications with heart and lung muscles. While there is no cure for this illness, physical therapy and corticosteroids can help patients remain mobile and active longer.

Motor neurons are nerve cells that transmit signals between the brain and the spinal cord.
Motor neurons are nerve cells that transmit signals between the brain and the spinal cord.

Another serious muscular illness that causes weakness is myasthenia gravis. This disorder belongs to a larger family of muscular system diseases known as neuromuscular junction disorders. These disorders involve problems in transmitting information between the muscles and the nerve cells that control them. Myasthenia gravis results from an autoimmune disorder in which the patient's own antibodies interfere with the neurotransmitters. Patients suffering from this condition may experience difficulty breathing and performing routine muscle movements.

Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is one of the better known muscular system diseases because of its association with the popular baseball player. This condition is a type of motor neuron disease in which the nerve cells responsible for transmitting information to the muscles begin to die off. This leads to muscular atrophy throughout the body and eventual paralysis. While some forms of motor neuron disease are inherited, researchers have not determined what factors lead to ALS. This disease is incurable and typically leads to death within two or three years.

Another major family of muscular system diseases includes neuropathies. These conditions involve damage to peripheral nerves outside the spinal cord and can produce a variety of symptoms, depending on which nerves are involved. Patients suffering from a neuropathic condition cam experience numbness, tingling, muscle cramps and weakness. These types of muscular system diseases can be related to a number of factors, including genetics, ingesting toxic substances, vitamin deficiencies or other illnesses.

Individuals suffering from degenerative muscle diseases may experience problems with walking.
Individuals suffering from degenerative muscle diseases may experience problems with walking.

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Discussion Comments


A cousin of mine died fairly young from muscular dystrophy. He had a severe form of it and his muscles weakened and deteriorated quickly. Eventually, he was in a wheelchair and only lived until age 17. He was tested for the genetic mutation though and it was determined that it was not hereditary but rather a genetic mutation when he was in the womb. Apparently, this disease is not always hereditary. It was important for the rest of the family to know because we might have been carrying the trait for it.


@burcinc-- I'm afraid you can't find out the cause of your issues without seeing a doctor. Yes, neuropathy may affect muscle function but that doesn't mean that every case of muscle disease has to do with neuropathy. If you don't have neuropathy, which you probably don't if you are young and have been keeping your sugar levels under control, then the muscle issues might be caused by something else.

Neuropathy tends to affect the limbs the most, but it's also possible for nerve damage to occur in a part of the body due to injury or stress. For example, you may have a nerve not functioning normally in your back due to an injury. This in turn would affect the response of muscles in that area.

You really ought to see a doctor because all of these diagnosis require detailed test to check the function of the muscles and nerves.


I have been experiencing some muscle issues lately. I haven't really figured out why. I'm surprised to read about neuropathy in this article though. I had no idea that neuropathy may lead to muscular disease. I do have diabetes which is a risk factor for neuropathy. Could that be my problem?

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