What are neuromuscular disorders?

Neuromuscular disorders are a wide range of diseases that affect the muscles and the nerves. They can cause problems with:1

The muscle itself

Communication between the nerves and muscles

The nerves that control the muscles

Most neuromuscular disorders are genetic. This means that they are passed down through the family (inherited) or caused by new changes (mutations) in a person’s genes.1

What is muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of neuromuscular disorders that cause muscle weakness and muscle loss.2

The different types of muscular dystrophy can vary in which muscles they affect, the type and severity of symptoms, and at what age the symptoms start.2,3 All forms of muscular dystrophy are progressive, which means they get worse over time.2

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common and most severe form of muscular dystrophy.1,3

What are the signs and symptoms of neuromuscular disorders?

Signs and symptoms of neuromuscular diseases can vary depending on the type of disorder and may be mild, moderate or severe.2 However, most neuromuscular disorders cause muscle weakness that worsens over time.2

The earliest and most common sign of neuromuscular disease is that a child does not reach developmental milestones when expected. These milestones include lifting their head, sitting, walking and talking.4–6

If you have concerns about your child’s development, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. In the rare situation that there is a problem, finding it early can ensure your child gets the expert care and treatments they may need.5–7

Are neuromuscular disorders curable?

While there is no cure for neuromuscular diseases, treatment and supportive care may improve symptoms, increase mobility and even increase life expectancy.1,8

The earliest and most common sign of neuromuscular disease is that a child does not reach developmental milestones when expected.4,5 Click here for the Developmental milestone checklist to help identify developmental concerns early

1. Dowling JJ, et al. Am J Med Genet. 2018;176:804–841.
2. National Institutes of Health. About muscular dystrophy (MD). Available at https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/musculardys/conditioninfo [last accessed March 2021].
3. National Institutes of Health. What are the types and symptoms of muscular dystrophy (MD)? Available at https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/musculardys/conditioninfo/types [last accessed March 2021].
4. Birnkrant DJ, et al. Lancet Neurol. 2018;17:251–267 [Part 1].
5. Lurio JG, et al. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91:38–44.
6. Noritz GH, et al. Pediatrics. 2013;131:e2016–e2027.
7. van Ruiten HJ, et al. Arch Dis Child. 2014;99:1074–1077.
8. Flotats-Bastardas, Hahn A. Front Pediatr. 2020;8:583877.

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