What are Neuromuscular Disorders?

What are Neuromuscular Disorders?

Neuromuscular disorders cause problems with the muscles, the nerves that control your muscles, and the communication between muscles and nerves. These diseases affect the peripheral nervous system, which consists of all of the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) with the rest of the body.

Types of Neuromuscular Disorders


There are different types of neuromuscular disorders. Some are inherited, while others are acquired after birth. Motor neuron diseases affect the nerve cells that you need to move your muscle groups, while neuropathies cause direct damage to nerves and myopathies result in muscle damage.

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a progressive degenerative disease that affects the motor neurons.
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is an autoimmune disease that causes progressive weakness and impaired sensation in the legs and arms due to a breakdown in myelin (the fatty insulation around nerves).
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disease that slows or stops nerve signals, causing weakness in the legs and upper body and sometimes the muscles responsible for breathing.
  • Inflammatory myopathy (such as dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and inclusion body myositis) is inflammation of muscle tissue, causing weakness and other symptoms.
  • Mitochondrial myopathies are inherited muscle disorders that can cause muscle cramping and breakdown of muscle tissue.
  • Muscular dystrophy is an inherited muscle disease that causes progressive weakness.
  • Myasthenia gravis, the most common neuromuscular junction disorder, is a rare autoimmune disease in which the immune system interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles, especially those of the eyes, mouth, throat, arms, and legs.
  • Myopathy is a group of muscle disorders with many possible causes, resulting in muscle weakness and some cases, destruction.
  • Neuropathy is a group of disorders that directly affect the body's nerves and can cause pain, weakness, and discomfort.

Signs & Symptoms of Neuromuscular Disorders


The signs and symptoms of neuromuscular disorders vary depending on the type of disorder, its cause, the part of the body affected, and how progressive it has become.

Common neuromuscular disorder symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness, twitching, and cramping
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty talking
  • Challenges with eating and swallowing
  • Problems with breathing
  • Balance problems
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Vision disturbances


What Causes Neuromuscular Disorders?


Some neuromuscular disorders are inherited and caused by mutations in certain genes that can be passed from a parent to a child. Examples include muscular dystrophy and mitochondrial diseases, although in many cases, the cause of a neuromuscular disorder cannot be identified.

Other possible causes of neuromuscular disorders include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Viral infection
  • Metabolic disorder
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Hormonal disorder
  • Certain toxins and medications
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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Neuromuscular Disorder Care

The symptoms of neuromuscular diseases and disorders can have many causes. A thorough assessment by an experienced team is required to make an accurate diagnosis so you can receive the most appropriate treatment.

Contact the specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian for an appointment to schedule a consultation with one of our experts.