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Muscle Weakness

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We shall discuss different problems that can cause muscle weakness. These problems vary from common to a few very rare. Let us have a look at muscle weakness and its possible causes.

What is Muscle Weakness?

Loss of muscle strength is called as muscle weakness. One often feels tired and this causes them to become weak. This is normal and due to fatigue. At times, an injury or pain or joint stiffness may cause muscle weakness. Thus, the term muscle weakness is often misused.

Muscle weakness or myasthenia is a condition that leads to lack of muscle strength. This condition causes the muscle to affect normal contraction. With all the effort, the muscle strength is reduced, leading to weak muscles.

The brain sends  a signal to the nerves of the muscle through the spinal cord. When the brain, the nerves, or the connection between the nerves and muscles is injured or diseased, it leads to abnormal muscle contractions and muscle weakness.

This weakness is not similar to the fatigue one feels after a strenuous workout. Rest will help the muscles recover, but in the case of myasthenia, there is a serious underlying condition.

Causes of muscle weakness

True muscle weakness will have many potential underlying causes. Some of these are listed below:

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Dematomyositis
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • ddision’s disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Low levels of potassium in the body
  • Rheumatic fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Polymyositis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Neuralgias
  • Bell’s palsy

Some rare cases of muscle weakness occur due to:

  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Paralytic shellfish poisoning
  • Botulism
  • Polio (although not rare in developing countries)
  • Insecticide ingestion

Stroke can lead to sudden muscle weakness in a muscle or a group of muscles. Transient ischemic attack can also lead to stroke-like symptoms.

Symptoms of muscle weakness

Muscle weakness is often seen along with other symptoms, that depend on the underlying condition or disease. These symptoms include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain
  • Frequent loss of balance and falling
  • Paralysis
  • Pins and needles
  • Muscle twitches

Other symptoms that may not appear muscular, but related to certain body systems include:

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  • Fainting
  • Lethargy
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Problems speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Numbness and tingling in arms and legs
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Fever and diarrhea

Diagnosis of muscle weakness

If you experience muscle weakness without any rational explanation, visit a doctor. The doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and how long you have been suffering from muscle weakness. He will check for the reflexes, sensation and muscle tone. After conducting a physical examination, he may ask for the following diagnostic tests to be conducted:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • lectromyography
  • Blood tests
  • Nerve tests
  • Pulmonary function testing (PFT) in case of respiratory muscle involvement

Treatment of muscle weakness

Once the cause has been recognized, the doctor will begin treatment. The treatment depends on the problem and its severity. Medications, change in diet, physical therapy, etc. all help give relief and manage the condition.

Muscle weakness, that is not due to fatigue, muscle overuse or injury, should be checked with a doctor. It can be due to something very serious and timely medical intervention can help prevent a major disorder from setting in.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: May 03, 2015

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