What is a Degenerative Muscle Disease?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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A degenerative muscle disease is a condition marked by the progressive deterioration of muscle tissue that causes weakness and impairs normal function. There are various types of degenerative muscle diseases, and each one may affect different muscle groups. Interestingly, a degenerative muscle disease may even affect a patient’s heart muscle. Usually, degenerative muscle diseases are marked by problems with walking, balance, and coordination, and many affect speech, swallowing, and even breathing. Some examples of diseases that cause muscle deterioration include myocarditis, which involves the heart; muscular dystrophy, which is inherited; and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which eventually causes the death of the patient.

Myocarditis is a type of degenerative muscle disease marked by inflammation in the heart. It causes pain in the chest and irregular heart rhythms and may also lead to heart failure, heart attack, or even a stroke. Often, myocarditis is caused by a virus, but the disease may also develop because of bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Sometimes, it may even develop because of an allergic reaction to a medication or a disease associated with inflammation, such as lupus. Fortunately, myocarditis is treatable, but when it causes severe damage to the heart, a patient may need a heart transplant.


Muscular dystrophy is another type of degenerative muscle disease. When a person has this condition, his muscles become progressively weaker over time; eventually, the muscle fibers become so damaged and weak that fat and other tissues take their place. Muscular dystrophy usually affects a person’s voluntary muscles but can also affect involuntary muscles. There are different types of muscular dystrophy, but they are all inherited conditions. Usually, the symptoms of muscular dystrophy include weakened muscles, coordination difficulties, and the progressive loss of mobility and function.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is another disease in which a person’s muscles become progressively weaker. Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is marked by progressive muscle weakness and loss of function that eventually ends with the death of the patient. Often, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis begins with weakness and movement difficulties in the hands and feet and eventually progresses to include various other parts of the body. In time, the patient suffers paralysis; even basic movements, such as those involved with eating and breathing, are affected. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can be inherited but may also develop because of gene mutations, immune system problems, chemical imbalances, or problems with the way nerve cells handle proteins.


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Post 3

My cousin has a muscle disorder. I don't know the exact name but I know that she was born with it.

When she was little, she could walk. She had an odd stride to her walk, but she was walking nonetheless. As she got older however, her muscles became weaker and weaker and her leg muscles could no longer carry her.

She can't walk now and has to be in a wheelchair. It's so disheartening to see her like that. I hope she can be cured one day.

Post 2

@burcinc-- Yes, I think muscular dystrophy is most common, especially in children. The reason I say that is because it is the most researched degenerative muscle disease and there are countless support groups for those who suffer from it. Myosis is another common one, but seen more often in the elderly.

I wish more organizations researched all forms of muscle diseases and disorders because they're all debilitating. Some develop more rapidly than others, some cause more damage. But they all negatively impact quality of life.

Post 1

What's the most common degenerative muscle disease?

Is it muscular dystrophy?

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