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.