Muscle atrophy

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1. Overview

There are two types of muscle atrophy:
- Disuse atrophy occurs due to lack of exercise. In most people, muscle atrophy is caused by muscles that are not used enough.

People who have sedentary jobs, medical conditions that limit their movement or no physical activity can lose muscle tone and muscle atrophy may develop. This type of atrophy can be remedied by intense exercise or proper nutrition.

- Minor atrophy. Bedridden people can suffer serious losses of muscle mass when a lesion is present or a nerve is damaged. This type of muscle atrophy tends to install suddenly than disuse atrophy. Among the conditions that affect the nerves that control muscles include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Polio.

Even minor atrophy usually causes a decrease in the capacity of motion and strength.


1. Overview
2. Causes
3. Treatment
4. What will happen during medical consultation?
5. Investigations

2. Causes

Some types of muscle atrophy occurs normally once with aging. Other causes may include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
- Burns;
- Guillain-Barre syndrome;
- Trauma;
- Long-term use of corticosteroids;
- Prolonged immobilization;
- Motor neuropathy;
- Muscular dystrophy;
- Osteoarthritis;
- Polio;
- Rheumatoid arthritis;
- Spinal cord injury;
- Starvation;
- Stroke.

3. Treatment

The most common treatment for muscle atrophy is physiotherapy, as a steady program of special exercises. These may include water exercise to reduce muscle strain, and other types of rehabilitation.

People who cannot move one or more joints can support the splints or other special media during therapeutic exercises. The physiotherapist will work with the patient’s doctor to develop a specific, individual exercises program that will help strengthen the affected muscles and restore the patient’s normal function as much as possible.

Electrical stimulation can sometimes help to tone muscles by local application of electrical stimuli (low power) which acts as a stimulator, being painless for muscle. If the atrophy is caused by systemic disease, the doctor may recommend intramuscular administration of anabolic steroids.

In severe cases of muscle atrophy, when the muscular mass diminishes in a worrying proportion special prostheses will apply to the affected area. Consult a doctor when you notice unexplained muscle loss or long term.

The treatment may include ultrasound therapy and if applicable, surgery to correct muscle contractures.

4. What will happen during medical consultation?

The doctor will perform a physical exam and will ask the patient questions about his medical history and symptoms exhibited, including:
- When started the process of muscle atrophy;
- Muscle atrophy was aggravated.

The specialist will analyze the lower and upper limbs and measure muscle size to try to determine which nerves are affected.

5. Investigations

Some tests that may be performed to diagnose muscle atrophy are:
- CT scan;
- Electromyography;
- MRI scan;
- Muscle biopsy;
- The analysis of nerve pulses transmission;
- X-ray radiography.



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