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Muscle wasting, also known as muscle atrophy, is when a muscle becomes thin and weak. When a person does not use his muscles, the muscle tissues waste away and must be built back up again if they are to be used. These thin muscles can become loose or detached from the motor nerve if the wasting is caused by trauma or disease. As a result, a person may experience loss of strength, decreased movement and, if the muscle has become fully detached, paralysis. This condition can occur for many reasons, including age, disease, malnutrition, illness, certain long-term therapies, and burns.
A person who becomes bedridden, does not exercise, or spends most of his time sitting will most likely experience muscle wasting. Unused muscles in bedridden people may exhibit extensive wasting. The muscles are not gone and can be restored to the way they used to be if the person begins to use them again. Those people who must remain in bed might benefit from physical therapy to help keep or improve their muscle tone.
Diseases also cause muscle wasting. Some examples of diseases known to cause muscle atrophy are polio, arthritis, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and Lou Gehrig's disease. Other types of disease that directly affect the muscles in a person's body can also result in muscle atrophy.
Trauma to a person's muscles can result in the wasting of the muscles. If the tiny fibers that make up a person's motor nerve are severed or become loose, it can greatly affect the tone of a person's muscle. A person with an injury often experiences a loss of movement. The injury may also result in loss of feeling if the nerves that transfer these sensations are damaged.
Treatments that may be used for muscle wasting will depend on the reason for the thin muscles. Exercise and physical therapy are most often useful for those who have lost muscle tone become of lack of exercise or movement. Diseases and injuries may require certain medications, hospitalization, therapy, breathing support, feeding support, surgery, or plasmapheresis, a process in which plasma is removed from the body, cleansed, and returned.
Muscle wasting can occur with any muscle in the body and is usually visible to the naked eye. When it is caused by age or lack of movement, many people become used to the lack of muscle tone and can live out their lives without any problems. If it is caused by disease or injury, medical attention and appropriate treatment are usually required.