Myopathy

Myopathies, or disorders of muscle, are a variety of conditions which result in damage and/or dysfunction of muscles.

These cause various combinations of weakness and/or pain. Though some begin with weakness in the hands and feet, most myopathies begin with weakness closer to the torso, especially in the shoulders, hips, thighs, and neck.

The first symptoms most people notice are difficulty walking up stairs and/or brushing their hair or teeth. Sometimes, myopathies cause pain in these areas, and some myopathies are associated with a rash.

Myopathies are the result of many different conditions.

  • Some medications, especially cholesterol-lowering drugs, can damage muscles.
  • Many myopathies, including dermatomyositis and polymyositis, are the result of inflammation from an overactive immune system.
  • Many others are genetic, with the disorder inherited from earlier generations.
  • Finally, some medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, can result in myopathies.

During the initial consultation we obtain a detailed description of the patient’s current symptoms and prior illnesses experienced by the patient and family members. Diagnosis also includes:

  • A review of current and prior medications.
  • A complete neurologic exam, focused on detailed testing of muscle strength, will follow.
  • If a myopathy is a possibility, we order blood tests and possibly an electromyogram and nerve conduction studies (EMG/NCS, detailed nerve and muscle testing).
  • While muscle biopsies are sometimes needed, the advent of newer blood testing for specific conditions, especially genes, helps many individuals avoid biopsies.

At the Pacific Brain Health Center, we are able to offer complete exams, EMG/NCS testing, and blood testing. If a biopsy is needed, our PNI surgery colleagues are able to provide that service as well.

Treatment options are varied and depend on the cause.

  • If the myopathy is the result of a medication, stopping the medication usually clears up the problems.
  • If an underlying medical condition is causing the muscle problems, treating that underlying condition usually leads to relief.
  • In inflammatory myopathies, treatments aimed at reducing inflammation and sometimes underlying immune overactivity are needed.
  • Regardless of the cause, patients usually benefit from physical and/or occupational therapy, available at nearby at Providence Saint John’s Performance Therapy.