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Neuromuscular disorders are conditions that affect some part of the neuromuscular system. The neuromuscular system includes the muscles, the peripheral motor nerves (in arms, legs, neck and face), and the “neuromuscular junction” where the nerves and muscles meet the muscle-controlling nerve cells (motor neurons) in the spinal cord.
Neuromuscular disorders can be inherited in many different ways. Some are inherited in an X-linked recessive manner meaning they will mainly affect males. Others are inherited in an autosomal recessive or autosomal dominant manner, meaning both males and females are affected equally. All neuromuscular disorders are progressive and all result in muscle weakness and fatigue. Some disorders begin at birth, some in childhood, and others begin during adulthood.
When muscle deteriorating occurs it can cause cramping, stiffness, joint deformities, chronic aches and pain, and sometimes the tightening and freezing of joints (contractures).
Many children with neuromuscular disorders have normal intelligence, however, muscle weakness and fatigue can make it hard for students to write, complete assignments, and/or organize materials. Children with these conditions do have an increased susceptibility to life-threatening respiratory infections, which may cause them to miss many days of school. A few neuromuscular disorders are associated with an increased incidence in learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities.
Life expectancy varies by disorder and severity. Heart and breathing problems, which are caused by muscle deterioration, are often the reason for death in individuals with neuromuscular disorders.
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This information was last updated in December, 2015.