Muscle Diseases 4.43/5 (7)

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Muscle diseases originate from the muscle cells. CC BY-SA 3.0,


Muscular diseases are attacking muscle cells so that the strength is weakened. Women, men and children of all ages can be attacked. The different muscular diseases are distinguished by different symptoms, findings on examination, treatment and prognosis.

Musculoskeletal diseases are distinguished from nerve diseases that can also cause reduced muscle function, but the cause is damage to the nerves that should activate the muscles. Examples of such nerve diseases are Multiple sclerosis (MS), Myastenia gravis, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson's disease.

Stiffness, muscle aches and other rheumatic disorders often increase with age and may be part of the normal aging process. Please read more about Aging and rheumatic symptoms here

Different muscle disease


The history of illness is important for distinguishing different types of muscle disease.

  • Muscle disease in the immediate family, age at onset of symptoms, rapid (days) or slow (weeks-years) development is important.
  • Prior travel abroad, injury, medication and alcohol consumption are also important information

By examining the physician may evaluate if the muscles have normal size and strength, if they are painful or tight. Symptoms from other organs are also investigated

  • In blood tests are creatine kinase (CK) elevated by muscle dystrophy, myositis and especially in rhabdomyolysis. CK is an enzyme which originates from muscle cells. The higher the rate in CK, the more widespread muscle injury may be assumed to be present. After physical exercise and corresponding strain, the values ​​also rise, but they fall to normal after a few days. Electrolyte and hormone disorders are also detected in blood samples
  • By electromyography (EMG) og neurography signals from muscles and nerves can show different responses, depending on the underlying cause of the disease, but the tests alone are insufficient to provide a safe diagnosis
  • MRI examination of attacked muscles can help differentiate the various muscular diseases. In addition, MRI changes may indicate areas where it is appropriate to take tissue samples (biopsy) from
  • Tissue (biopsy) from the attacked muscle is always an important study in the investigation.
    • By microscopic examination and other tests through the tissue sample one can distinguish hereditary myopathies from myositis, rhabdomyolysis and metabolic muscle diseases
  • In the event of suspected hereditary muscular dystrophy or metabolic muscle disease, genetic consulting and associated tests can de done

Incorrect diagnosis (similar conditions, differential diagnoses)


To provide proper treatment, diagnosis of type of muscle disease is essential. The treatment is described under the individual diagnoses.


The prognosis are very different between the various diseases, in part, also depending on the response and tolerance of the treatment. For more information, see articles about the different diseases.


  • The hereditary muscular dystrophies are investigated and usually treated by pediatricians and in adult age by neurologists
  • Myositis is within the field of rheumatology
  • Metabolic and hormonally-induced muscle diseases are most commonly handled by endocrinologists
  • Other types of muscle diseases are assessed and followed by other specialists or general practitioners, depending on the severity. If necessary, close collaboration between a specialist, a GP, possibly other therapists and the patient is always important

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