What is Myopathy?

Malcolm Tatum

Myopathy is a muscular disorder that interferes with the proper function of the muscle fibers. Depending on the severity of the disease, a person suffering with myopathy may find that the muscles are so weak that performing routine tasks is extremely difficult if not impossible. There are a number of types of myopathy, including muscular dystrophy, classes of myotonia and mitochondrial myopathies.

Families who have a history of muscular dystrophy should be particularly alert to the early warning signs of the condition, which may not appear until adolescence.
Families who have a history of muscular dystrophy should be particularly alert to the early warning signs of the condition, which may not appear until adolescence.

In terms of muscular dystrophy, the various manifestations of myopathy include a process in which the muscles weaken or degenerate over time. During the process of degeneration, the muscle groups impacted may experience some short periods of regeneration, allowing the individual to temporarily recapture some of the function of the muscles. However, the body’s ability to regenerate is eventually overcome by the disease, often making it impossible to walk. At this point, the degeneration will continue, and may eventually compromise the muscles of the respiratory system.

A child suffering from muscular dystrophy may suffer from frequent falls.
A child suffering from muscular dystrophy may suffer from frequent falls.

Within the myotonia family, various classes of congenital myopathies point to health conditions that are different from any type of muscular dystrophy in terms of their origins. This group of myopathy classifications tends to not demonstrate any type of progressive failure of the muscle groups. Rather, the condition may have to do with abnormalities in the muscles themselves that were present at birth. Essentially, the muscles are too weak to contract properly during any attempt at movement. Some examples of myopathies found in this classification include nemaline myopathy, and centronuclear myopathy.

Babies suffering from muscular dystrophy may require enteral feeding.
Babies suffering from muscular dystrophy may require enteral feeding.

With forms of mitochondrial myopathy, the focus on abnormalities in the mitochondria that help to generate energy for the muscles. Rather than some distal aspect of the muscles themselves, this type of myopathy weakens muscle cores, sometimes rendering them unable to function at all. In some cases, inflammation is present and the condition may also impact the ability of the body to maintain a proper lipid balance.

Some forms of myopathy may cause temporary paralysis.
Some forms of myopathy may cause temporary paralysis.

Because there are so many classes and subclasses of myopathy, no one course of treatment is effective with every manifestation of the disease. Depending on the type and level of severity of the condition, the patient may respond to some type of drug therapy. Surgery or physical therapy may also be helpful in some situations. Among alternative medical practices, some patients have found that acupuncture and acupressure provide some relief, as does therapeutic massage. In many cases, the concurrent use of more than one treatment may be necessary to at least partially contain the disease and provide some degree of relief.

Muscle weakness may inhibit an individual from performing basic tasks, such as teeth brushing.
Muscle weakness may inhibit an individual from performing basic tasks, such as teeth brushing.
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

ceilingcat

@strawCake - Did you know there is more than one kind of muscular dystrophy? A few kinds are Becker's, Congenital, Distal, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. All of these types vary in symptoms and severity.

Duchenne is the type that most people think of when they think of muscular dystrophy. This kind appears in childhood and usually causes the person to die before they reach age 20. Very sad.

In contrast, Distal muscular dystrophy usually starts in adulthood. This type only affects the hands and legs and does not cause death.

strawCake

The only kind of myopathy I'm familiar with is muscular dystrophy. The disease gets a lot of press time so to speak, which I think is a good thing. I know muscular dystrophy can really shorten a persons life expectancy although before reading this article I didn't know that inability to breathe was the reason!

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