Personalized Care Focused on Your Needs

When persistent muscular weakness intrudes on your daily activities and affects your quality of life, the neurology experts at Penn State Health offer advanced diagnosis and treatment options that can make a real difference in your overall health and wellness.

Whether it’s caused by a vigorous workout or a case of the flu, nearly everyone feels weak now and then. True neurological weakness is different than fatigue or muscle strain. It’s an actual loss of muscle strength that reduces or prevents your ability to do numerous tasks and movements. Weakness may be confined to one area or it could affect your entire body.

When you intentionally move your muscles, your brain sends a signal through nerve cells in your brain stem and spinal cord to the muscles you want to control. If any part of the pathway is damaged or diseased, weakness can result.

Types of weakness include:

  • Subjective weakness: you feel weak but don’t experience a real loss of strength.
  • Objective weakness: you experience a measurable loss of strength.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Weakness Symptoms

Weakness can affect only one area in your body or it may be generalized and affect all your muscles. Many people experience tingling, numbness or a pins and needles sensation. Other symptoms depend on where the damage to your nervous system is located. For example, if your chest muscles are affected, you may have difficulty breathing. If the nerves leading to your eye muscles are not working properly, you may have double vision.

Diagnosing Muscular Weakness

Several health conditions, like muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, can cause weakness. It’s important to talk to your health care provider if you experience a loss of muscle strength.

The experts at Penn State Health begin their evaluation with a complete physical exam and medical history that outlines the duration and severity of your symptoms. From there, additional testing may be needed to accurately assess your condition.

Depending on what area of your body is affected, testing may include:

  • Bloodwork and lumbar puncture
  • Reflex evaluation
  • Muscle tone assessment
  • Nerve conduction tests to determine functionality
  • Electromyography (EMG) to test nerve activity
  • Pulmonary function tests to evaluate respiratory muscle strength
  • Nerve or muscle biopsies
  • Single fiber EMG, Genetic testing
  • Nerve conduction velocity (NCV)

Outlook for Patients with Weakness

If you have muscular weakness, your long-term outlook depends on the cause of your symptoms. If your weakness originates from a serious health issue, early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your chances for a successful outcome.

Experts in Care

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

The multidisciplinary general neurology team at Penn State Health offers cohesive, comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care to help you manage headache, weakness and sensory dysfunction. Our high level of expertise helps patients throughout the state achieve better health and quality of life.

Your care team may include:

  • Board-certified neurologists
  • Physicians in related specialties
  • Medical researchers
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Highly skilled support staff

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered