Various problems in the musculoskeletal system are associated with lupus. Muscle atrophy is one of them.
Muscle atrophy or muscular atrophy refers to the wasting of one’s muscles. This is a condition that can occur for a number of reasons: In some cases, it is a neurogenic condition, associated with a nervous system condition like polio or a stroke. In other cases, muscular atrophy results from inadequate use of a muscle. This may happen if a patient finds himself or herself in a situation that precludes using that particular muscle. For instance, the patient’s leg may be immobilized in a splint. A third factor that may result in muscular atrophy is the extended use of corticosteroids.
Three Situations That Could Lead to Lupus Muscle Atrophy
Any of the above types of situations may apply to a patient suffering from lupus. Muscle atrophy is, therefore a condition that many lupus patients risk developing. It is worthwhile revisiting the above situations and seeing how they may apply more specifically to a lupus patient.
The first example mentioned above is that of a neurogenic condition: If a patient’s lupus shows nervous system involvement, then the nerves that stimulate particular muscles to contract or relax may be affected. If the nerves communicating with the muscles of the lower leg are the ones affected then the patient may find it difficult to walk. Over the long-term, failure to use these muscles will cause them to weaken and shrink. Ultimately the patient will be grounded by his or her lupus: muscle atrophy will take its toll.
The second example mentioned is one where lupus patients develop muscle atrophy because they do not use their muscles often enough. One of the reasons why this may happen is because lupus patients often experience weakness and fatigue. Patients experiencing these general symptoms are less likely to be active. Thus, they may be too tired to exercise or work. Alternatively, the patients may have arthritis, including the associated pain and stiffness. If the pain and stiffness reduce the amount of work or exercise they do, their muscles are likely to atrophy over time.
The third example mentioned is that of excessive use of corticosteroids. This is especially important because corticosteroids are a well-recognized form of treatment for lupus and other inflammatory diseases. Corticosteroids tend to work well when used in limited amounts for limited periods of time. However, when used in large doses or for extended periods of time, they have the capacity to cause the muscles to atrophy. This is why it is important to monitor corticosteroid usage when treating patients with lupus. Muscle atrophy can be kept at bay with responsible treatment.