What are the Different Neuromuscular Disorders?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2019
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Neuromuscular disorders are any conditions in which nerves do not function properly in the muscles. Nerves send messages to muscles from the brain, so any damage can either inhibit voluntary movement or cause involuntary movement. It occurs most often in the muscles of the limbs. Some neuromuscular disorders can be treated, while others can cause enough damage to be fatal.

Spinal muscular atrophy is a neuromuscular disorder that is thought to be genetic. It destroys nerves in the spinal cord and can make walking or movement difficult. The disorder may also affect the head or neck and inhibit breathing or swallowing. Spinal muscular atrophy is incurable, but can be treated with medication.

Some types of neuromuscular disorders do not damage the actual nerves themselves. Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects a protective barrier, known as myelin sheath, that covers nerve cells. Destruction of the myelin sheath makes nerve cells more vulnerable and can cause them to not properly communicate with the brain. People who suffer from MS can have difficulty remaining upright or balanced because the disorder causes muscles to be fragile and in serious cases, people can’t move their legs or speak. The disorder does not have a definitive cause or cure.


Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disorder that occurs in the facial and head muscles and causes involuntary twitching or other movement of the face or eyes. In serious cases, myasthenia gravis can impair throat function and swallowing. The disorder happens due to the body fighting nerve transmission because it sees it as a threat. Myasthenia gravis does not have a cure, but the symptoms can be treated with medication.

One of the most fatal neuromuscular disorders is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disorder is incurable and has no proven cause or risk factors. It starts out with the arms and legs not receiving nerve signals, which inhibits walking or moving the arms. As ALS progresses, it affects more muscles in the body, especially the chest muscles. If the chest muscles become weak enough, a person will physically be unable to breathe without help from an oxygen machine and may ultimately die from oxygen deprivation.

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is one of the most widespread neuromuscular disorders and has over 30 different varieties. It is thought to be genetic and can affect children or adults equally. When a person has the disorder, his or her nerve signals from the brain don’t transmit to the muscles, which can lead to severe muscle damage. MD has no cure and just gets worse over time until a person cannot move his or her muscles at all.



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