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Muscle Weakness: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

The term muscle weakness covers several realities. It ranges from simple muscle fatigue to actual loss of strength, whether transient or chronic. But in which cases can we be a victim of this type of symptoms? What treatments can be implemented? Focus on muscle weakness in this article.

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Types of Muscle Weakness

Muscle weakness is a temporary or lasting loss of strength in a muscle or group of muscles. Theoretically, all areas of the body can be victims of this muscle weakness. It affects both striated muscles (voluntary muscles such as the muscles of the limbs or neck) and specific smooth muscles (for example, the bladder muscles, which results in urinary incontinence).

However, to differentiate the types of muscle weakness, we distinguish:

Fatigability

In which the muscles react in a usual way but tire quickly (usually the recovery is also longer than average);

Muscle Fatigue

In which a feeling of exhaustion arises with the use of a muscle (or muscle group);

True

Muscle weakness which results in reduced muscle strength, regardless of activity, with the muscle not responding correctly from the start of exertion.

Causes

There are many causes of muscle weakness. Many of them are not directly related to muscle damage but only to a condition that leads to muscle fatigue.

In particular, we can find causes:

  • Inflammatory (in the case of the flu, for example, fever often causing severe fatigue and muscle weakness);
  • Rheumatological (fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis, for example);
  • Neurological (in the event of chronic fatigue syndrome – or myalgic encephalopathy – or following a stroke or in the context of multiple sclerosis, for example);
  • Neuromuscular in case of damage to the spinal cord or problems with the nerves or muscles;
  • Endocrine (for example, following childbirth or in case of hypothyroidism);
  • Infectious (mononucleosis or HIV, for example);
  • Iatrogenic, in particular, due to drugs such as corticosteroids, statins, or chemotherapy;
  • Genetic (Duchenne myopathy or muscular dystrophy, for example);
  • Emotional (for example, the legs which no longer support us following an emotional shock).

Symptoms Related To Muscle Weakness

Muscle weakness can itself be a symptom of specific pathologies. Often, more than a noticeable loss of muscle strength, the person feels tired, exhausted.

It is not uncommon for [muscle weakness] to be accompanied by pain. The problem can sometimes lead to less mobilization of a part of the body, which will lose muscle strength and become weaker over time.

Depending on its origin, this [muscle weakness] may be temporary or irreversible.

What is the Diagnosis?

The diagnosis of [muscle weakness] will usually be made using an electromyogram. This examination makes it possible to record the electrical activity of nerves and muscles and observe their reaction and determine its origin, especially when it is neuromuscular.

However, additional examinations may be necessary. In some cases, blood tests, x-rays, or biopsies will help diagnose a muscle tumor such as rhabdomyosarcoma. It may even be interesting to perform a lumbar puncture, a computed tomography, an ultrasound, or even an MRI in some specific cases.

Thus, it is necessary to consult your doctor in case of unexplained [muscle weakness]. Indeed, making a diagnosis is essential to rule out any severe causes and implement a treatment adapted to it.

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