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Muscle atrophy

Muscle wasting; Wasting; Atrophy of the muscles

Muscle atrophy is the wasting or loss of muscle tissue.

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Active vs. inactive muscle
Muscular atrophy

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Considerations

There are two types of muscle atrophy.

Examples of diseases affecting the nerves that control muscles:

Although people can adapt to muscle atrophy, even minor muscle atrophy usually causes some loss of movement or strength.

Causes

Some muscle atrophy occurs normally with aging. Other causes may include:

Home Care

An exercise program (under the direction of a therapist or doctor) is recommended to help treat muscle atrophy. This may include exercises in water to reduce the muscle workload, and other types of rehabilitation.

People who cannot actively move one or more joints can do exercises using braces or splints.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor for an appointment if you have unexplained or long-term muscle loss. You can often see this when you compare one hand, arm, or leg to the other.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

The doctor will look at your arms and legs and measure muscle size to try to determine which nerve or nerves are affected.

Tests that may be performed include:

Treatment may include physical therapy, ultrasound therapy and, in some cases, surgery to correct a contracture.

Related Information

Muscle cramps
Hypotonia
Poliomyelitis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Guillain-Barré syndrome
Muscular dystrophy

References

Chinnery PF. Muscle Diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 429.

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Review Date: 2/10/2014  

Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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