Nerves, Muscles, And Everything In Between
Though a subspecialty, neuromuscular medicine encompasses a broad range of conditions
Healthy muscles can give us strength and speed, but only if they are communicating with our nerves, which are ideally fast and strong as well. When the communication between nerve cells and muscle cells breaks down, it results in a neuromuscular disorder.
Neurologist Jonas Vanags, MD, is Fellowship-trained in these kinds of disorders, which fall under quite a wide range.
“Neuromuscular medicine involves disorders that fall anywhere from the lower motor neuron in the spinal cord all the way to the muscle,” Vanags explains. “This encompasses disorders of the motor neuron like ALS, nerve root, plexus, peripheral nerve, neuromuscular junction and muscle.”
Despite the diversity within Dr. Vanags’ few examples, it only hints at the number of conditions diagnosed and treated in his subspecialty. Some others include:
- Peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral nerves carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Damage to these nerves can cause weakness and make it difficult to control muscles. Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Autoimmune disorders can also be a cause. Entrapment neuropathies such as carpal tunnel syndrome also fit in this category.
- Muscular dystrophies. These are a group of inherited conditions that cause muscle weakness. There are several different types of muscular dystrophy, and the symptoms and severity of the disease varies. The most severe forms tend to occur in early childhood. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms, as there is no known cure yet.
- Polymyositis. This inflammatory disease leads to muscle weakness and tenderness. The condition is most common in adults between the age of 50 and 70, and children from ages 5 to 15. Women are affected by this disease twice as often as men.
- Myasthenia gravis. This is a type of autoimmune disorder in which the body produces antibodies that block muscle cells from receiving messages from the nerve cell. This causes weakness in the voluntary muscles, leading to a variety of symptoms including breathing and chewing difficulty, inability to climb stairs or lift objects, and facial paralysis.
“As you can see, this subspecialty includes a variety of disorders,” says Vanags, who is Board Certified in Neurology.
Though he has diagnosed and treated some patients with neuromuscular disorders since joining Jill Trumble, MD, at St. Joseph's/Candler Medical Group – Neurology, Dr. Vanags says the needs of this region reflect the entire field of neurology.
“Dr. Trumble and I are seeing the whole spectrum of neurological disorders,” Vanags says. “It is gratifying to be able to perform many of the different diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that our patients need right here in our office.”
To learn more, visit www.sjchs.org/neurology.