What Is Myopathies?

Acquired myopathies are a diverse group of disorders in which the primary symptom is muscle weakness. Muscle dysfunction most commonly produces progressive weakness of the arms and legs. There are many causes of myopathy, including those due to inflammation in the muscles themselves (polymyositis, dermatomyositis and inclusion body myositis). Myopathies can also be caused by various medical diseases and even by certain drugs, such as those that are used to control elevated blood cholesterol.

Diagnosis of Myopathies

Diagnosing neuromuscular illness can be a complex process. A broad range of diseases can affect nerves and muscles, and often produce similar symptoms, such as weakness and numbness. Penn's Neuromuscular Disorders Program offers consultations and comprehensive neurodiagnostic studies to help with difficult diagnosis. A Penn neuromuscular specialist reviews the complete medical history, and performs a comprehensive neuromuscular examination, of each patient. When appropriate, our specialists use our technologically advanced neurodiagnostic facilities.

Diagnostic testing includes:

  • Biochemical and genetic testing
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Nerve and muscle biopsy
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG)

Treatment at Penn

Adults with acquired myopathies (polymyositis, dermatomyositis and inclusion body myositis) are cared for at the MDA Clinic at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The MDA maintains a network of 200 specialized clinics across the United States. Once a diagnosis is made, appropriate treatment will be implemented, including adjustment of immunosuppressant medications if needed. Physical therapy is generally prescribed and therapeutic exercise plays a large role in management of the muscle weakness in most patients.

Penn Programs & Services for Myopathies

Neuromuscular Disorders

Our neuromuscular disorders program provides the latest advancements in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for all types of neuromuscular disorders, such as ALS, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and muscular dystrophies.


Penn’s neurorehabilitation program provides inpatient and outpatient services that restore patients to a maximum level of cognitive and physical function.

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