The body’s muscles are irreplaceable. They're used to some degree or other for every physical event people engage in throughout their lives. Even if it doesn't seem like it at the time, the body can employ several muscle groups at a time to achieve even the most mundane or ordinary everyday tasks. When something goes wrong with them, therefore, it's important to diagnose what's wrong soon enough to rectify the issue before it's too late.
A variety of ailments can afflict the muscles, with different symptoms apparent and different underlying causes which are important to be able to differentiate accurately. Many of them are tied in some way to the nervous system, which can make treatment tricky. In particular, this article will serve as a descriptive guide about muscular atrophy, a disorder that revolves around moderate to severe weakness of the muscles.
Causes of Muscular Atrophy
People who have been immobilized for variable periods of time (even just a few days could cause problems) are subject to a lack of use of their muscles. Similarly, some cases of nerve damage and even spending time in low or zero-g environments (such as in space) can lead to muscles being underused and can serve as catalysts for atrophy. The "atrophy" can be broken down to understand it better - trophy refers to proper status for growth, while the "a" is a negation. Therefore, atrophy can be considered a negation of proper growth.
The protein of which muscles is largely composed is always being constructed and deconstructed. Problems begin to arise when the balance between these two processes is thrown out of whack. This disorder can be induced by severe burns, organ failure, immune disorders such as AIDS, steroids (medicine to manage inflammation and other immune responses), starvation and cancer.
Symptoms of Muscular Atrophy
Muscular atrophy almost always results in a decreased quality of life as tasks which are normally taken for granted, such as stretching or walking, become increasingly difficult to perform. Skeletal muscle, responsible for the ability to move, decreases and is difficult to maintain. Sufferers will find their limbs shrinking and becoming noticeably smaller.
Use of the muscles for even a short time at this point can result in pain, stress, numbness or lack of feeling, and a burning sensation. General weakness makes it difficult for patients to improve their condition on their own, even with adequate medicine available.
Neurological dysfunction is known to occur as atrophy progresses. Without treatment which includes increased mobility and/or some sort of exercise, muscle atrophy can continue to worsen, possibly leading to death.
Treatment of Muscular Atrophy
Treating atrophy can be achieved by performing some of the following tasks:
- Increasing muscle through exercise. Attendants can move body parts for patients until they can do it themselves
- Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, form byproducts which can be chemically synthesize and then sold as supplements. These items can assist in the additional construction of protein necessary for reducing the impact of atrophy.
- Steroids, while inadvisable for use in healthy people who also wish to increase muscle, could potentially be useful for those suffering from muscle atrophy.
- Some medical devices can electrically stimulate muscles to contract
In addition, there are other techniques which are still in the experimental stage. Noninvasive ultrasound technology might be of some use by means of electrical stimulation.
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