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What is Myopathy?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 17, 2024

Myopathy is a muscular disorder that interferes with the proper function of the muscle fibers. Depending on the severity of the disease, a person suffering with myopathy may find that the muscles are so weak that performing routine tasks is extremely difficult if not impossible. There are a number of types of myopathy, including muscular dystrophy, classes of myotonia and mitochondrial myopathies.

In terms of muscular dystrophy, the various manifestations of myopathy include a process in which the muscles weaken or degenerate over time. During the process of degeneration, the muscle groups impacted may experience some short periods of regeneration, allowing the individual to temporarily recapture some of the function of the muscles. However, the body’s ability to regenerate is eventually overcome by the disease, often making it impossible to walk. At this point, the degeneration will continue, and may eventually compromise the muscles of the respiratory system.

Within the myotonia family, various classes of congenital myopathies point to health conditions that are different from any type of muscular dystrophy in terms of their origins. This group of myopathy classifications tends to not demonstrate any type of progressive failure of the muscle groups. Rather, the condition may have to do with abnormalities in the muscles themselves that were present at birth. Essentially, the muscles are too weak to contract properly during any attempt at movement. Some examples of myopathies found in this classification include nemaline myopathy, and centronuclear myopathy.

With forms of mitochondrial myopathy, the focus on abnormalities in the mitochondria that help to generate energy for the muscles. Rather than some distal aspect of the muscles themselves, this type of myopathy weakens muscle cores, sometimes rendering them unable to function at all. In some cases, inflammation is present and the condition may also impact the ability of the body to maintain a proper lipid balance.

Because there are so many classes and subclasses of myopathy, no one course of treatment is effective with every manifestation of the disease. Depending on the type and level of severity of the condition, the patient may respond to some type of drug therapy. Surgery or physical therapy may also be helpful in some situations. Among alternative medical practices, some patients have found that acupuncture and acupressure provide some relief, as does therapeutic massage. In many cases, the concurrent use of more than one treatment may be necessary to at least partially contain the disease and provide some degree of relief.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By ceilingcat — On Jul 07, 2011

@strawCake - Did you know there is more than one kind of muscular dystrophy? A few kinds are Becker's, Congenital, Distal, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. All of these types vary in symptoms and severity.

Duchenne is the type that most people think of when they think of muscular dystrophy. This kind appears in childhood and usually causes the person to die before they reach age 20. Very sad.

In contrast, Distal muscular dystrophy usually starts in adulthood. This type only affects the hands and legs and does not cause death.

By strawCake — On Jul 06, 2011

The only kind of myopathy I'm familiar with is muscular dystrophy. The disease gets a lot of press time so to speak, which I think is a good thing. I know muscular dystrophy can really shorten a persons life expectancy although before reading this article I didn't know that inability to breathe was the reason!

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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