Muscle Weakness in Children
Children can develop muscle weakness for several reasons. Muscle weakness can be a sign of a serious health condition that needs medical care. Or it may be a temporary problem that goes away with minimal treatment. Often, a child has muscle weakness along with other symptoms.
The pediatric neurology team at Children’s Health expertly diagnoses the cause of muscle weakness in children. We offer specialized treatments for common and complex conditions that cause muscle weakness.
What is childhood Muscle Weakness?
A child with muscle weakness lacks the strength to move certain muscles the way they should. This lack of muscle strength makes it more difficult for a child to perform basic functions like walking, feeding or dressing themselves. A child may be able to perform these tasks, but it takes extra effort. As a result, a child with muscle weakness may tire more easily.
What are the signs and symptoms of Muscle Weakness in Children?
Muscle weakness symptoms in children include:
- Difficulty crawling, standing, walking, running, jumping or climbing stairs
- Inability to raise their arms, feed themself or pick up items and hold onto them
- Trouble sucking, swallowing or speaking
- Neurodevelopmental delays and developmental delays (not hitting milestones like rolling over or crawling as expected)
- Lack (or loss) of muscle tone (soft, doughy muscles)
- Floppy head and neck
- Droopy eyelids or inability to track things with the eyes
How is Muscle Weakness in Children diagnosed?
Neurologists at Children’s Health℠ are experts at pinpointing the cause of muscle weakness in a child. Different conditions can affect muscle strength. Often, other symptoms occur along with muscle weakness. Our doctors assess all symptoms to determine which diagnostic tests your child needs.
These tests may include:
- Developmental testing, to check for motor, language, social and behavioral delays
- Electromyogram (EMG), to show how muscles respond to nerve signals
- Genetic testing, to look for gene changes that cause certain disorders
- MRIs or CT scans, to look for muscle changes that indicate neuromuscular disease
- Muscle biopsies, to diagnose neuromuscular disorders and infections
- Neurological examinations, to assess motor skills, balance and coordination
What are the causes of Muscle Weakness in Children?
Many conditions can cause muscle weakness in a child. Muscle weakness causes include:
- Acute flaccid myelitis or AFM (spinal cord inflammation and infection)
- Autoimmune diseases, such as myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Hereditary (genetic) neuropathies like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) or hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone)
- Neuromuscular diseases, such as muscular dystrophy
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency
How is Muscle Weakness in Children treated?
Treatments for muscle weakness vary depending on the underlying cause. At Children’s Health, we have the expertise to quickly diagnose the problem and start treatment. We offer comprehensive treatments for all types of disorders that cause muscle weakness.
Depending on the condition causing muscle weakness, treatments may include:
- Rehabilitation services, including occupational, physical and speech therapies
Pediatric Muscle Weakness Doctors and Providers
We offer advanced care for children with muscle weakness. A dedicated team of specialists from various fields works together to help your child regain strength and mobility.
Michael Dowling, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Susan Iannaccone, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Saima Kayani, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Eric Remster, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Lauren Sanchez, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Cynthia Wang, MD Pediatric Neurologist
Frequently Asked Questions
What other symptoms may develop along with muscle weakness?
A child with muscle weakness may have a number of other symptoms depending on the underlying cause. These symptoms may include:
- Behavioral problems
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Problems with gait (walking) and movement
- Vision problems
Is pediatric muscle weakness inherited?
A child may inherit a gene change for a condition that causes muscle weakness (like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease). But not every child who gets the gene change will develop the condition or muscle weakness.
Many things can cause muscle weakness, including autoimmune diseases. Not all causes of muscle weakness have a genetic link.
Does pediatric muscle weakness affect more boys than girls?
Muscle weakness is a problem that can affect boys and girls of all ages.