What is neuromuscular disease?
Neuromuscular disease refers to a large group of conditions that affect your peripheral nerves and muscles. Peripheral nerves pick up sensory information and carry it to your brain. They also deliver messages from your brain to your muscles, where the nerves activate muscle activity.
You can inherit a neuromuscular disease. You can also develop a muscle problem due to nerve damage, an autoimmune disease, enzyme deficiency, and other underlying medical conditions.
These are a few examples of neuromuscular diseases:
- Muscular dystrophy
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Myasthenia gravis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Metabolic muscle diseases
Several of these diseases represent multiple conditions. For example, there are nine types of muscular dystrophy.
What symptoms does a neuromuscular disease cause?
Symptoms can start at any age, from infancy through adulthood, depending on the type of neuromuscular disease. The most common symptoms associated with neuromuscular diseases include:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of muscle
- Spasticity (muscle stiffness)
- Cramps and twitching
- Difficulty moving
- Balance problems
- Droopy eyelids
- Double vision
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
While spasticity and cramps typically cause intense pain, weak muscles make it hard to get up from sitting, walk up stairs, or reach for items.
Children with a neuromuscular disease often have developmental delays in their motor skills. For example, a baby may not be able to lift or turn their head, or they may not sit up or walk at the expected age.
How are neuromuscular diseases treated?
Your provider at Ventura Neuroscience Center completes a thorough physical exam that includes evaluating your symptoms, reflexes, and muscle strength. Then they order blood work and diagnostic imaging such as an MRI if needed. They also perform electromyography and nerve conduction studies that evaluate muscle and nerve function.
Treatment for most neuromuscular diseases focuses on relieving your symptoms and delaying disease progression. Your treatment could include medications, chronic pain management, or surgery. However, your provider develops a treatment plan that’s customized for your specific condition.
Your provider at Ventura Neuroscience Center also refers you to the specialists needed for comprehensive and integrative care. You may need physical therapy, occupational therapy, a pulmonary specialist, or an ophthalmologist.