Myopathy (myositis) is used to describe a wide range of muscle diseases or disorders with many possible causes – among them toxins, infection, autoimmune conditions, hereditary diseases such as muscular dystrophy, hormonal abnormalities, or inflammation. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's neurologists work closely with other medical specialists to evaluate patients with myopathy, identify and treat its cause, manage symptoms, and improve quality of life.
Whatever their origin, all myopathies cause muscle weakness, which can make walking, standing, holding on to things, chewing, swallowing, or even talking difficult. In addition to muscle soreness, patients may have cramps; muscle shrinkage (atrophy) can also occur.
To determine a course of treatment for each patient with myopathy, NewYork-Presbyterian doctors first work to identify its type and cause. Diagnostic tests may include blood tests and electromyography – a test that measures nerve signals and speed and muscle function, which can help identify whether weakness is due to muscle or nerve problems. Muscle biopsy may be necessary; our specialized neuropathologists are experts in the interpretation of these samples.
If doctors find that myopathy results from an underlying, treatable medical problem, they will first focus on treating that problem. Other approaches may include:
- Medications, including corticosteroids and immune system treatments
- Vitamin supplements
- Avoidance of certain medications or substances
- Physical or occupational therapy
For patients who don't respond to these therapies, treatment may include management of symptoms and rehabilitation.
Genetic counseling is available at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for patients whose myopathy is due to a hereditary condition.
People with myopathy may be extremely weak. Physical and occupational therapy are important for helping patients regain or maintain their ability to perform daily activities. Rehabilitation specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital work with patients to:
- Evaluate muscle strength and motor skills
- Develop an individualized program to maintain or improve motor function
- Recommend devices (such as neck supports, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs) and equipment for the home to ensure patient safety and mobility
- Discuss ways to modify activities, conserve energy, and simplify work
New York-Presbyterian researchers originally defined a number of types of myopathy and identified their causes. Today researchers are further working to identify the causes of myopathies and to develop new treatments.