Neuromuscular Disorders & Diseases
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Why choose UCLA Health for neuromuscular care?
The neuromuscular specialists at UCLA Health diagnose and treat a full range of nerve and muscle disorders. We provide state-of-the-art treatments for even the most complex conditions.
Highlights of our neuromuscular program include:
- National recognition: Many of our clinics and services have achieved national recognition or designation. For example, the Muscular Dystrophy Association sponsors our clinics for muscular dystrophy treatment. This sponsorship means we offer high-quality, team-based care.
- Access to clinical trials: Each of our specialized clinics offers eligible patients access to the newest and most promising treatments through clinical trials. Our specialists continually research and implement best practices in neuromuscular care.
- Specialized care: Our neuromuscular program features multiple disease-specific specialty clinics. These clinics allow us to target care so we can more effectively meet each patient’s needs.
Our areas of care
Our neuromuscular specialists care for patients through multiple outpatient clinics, including:
This clinic specializes in treating patients with undiagnosed and rare neuromuscular conditions. We use comprehensive diagnostic testing to get to the root of symptoms and provide state-of-the-art, team-based treatment.
At the neuropathy clinic, neurologists evaluate, diagnose and care for patients with acquired and hereditary peripheral nerve disorders. Our experts perform sophisticated tests to determine the cause of all types of neuropathies. They can then recommend the most appropriate treatment or refer you to another specialist if necessary.
Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at UCLA Health Pediatric Neuromuscular Clinic
Established in 2006, the Center was the first comprehensive Duchenne clinic in the western United States. It’s sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and designated as a certified care center by the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. We are also a Certified California Children’s Services (CCS) Care Center. This multispecialty clinic offers eligible children access to new and promising research and clinical trials.
Adult Muscular Dystrophy Clinic
The Muscular Dystrophy Association also sponsors this clinic. Here, eligible adults with muscular dystrophy can participate in clinical trials and receive care from a team of experienced specialists.
This clinic is for patients with a new or existing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis. We use state-of-the-art tools to diagnose ALS. Our specialists can recommend effective treatment options or refer you to other specialists as appropriate. Our multispecialty team includes:
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapists
- Respiratory therapists
- Speech pathologists
- Social workers
Conditions neuromuscular specialists treat
Our neuromuscular specialists treat a full range of neuromuscular disorders, including:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, this nervous system disorder leads to nerve cell breakdown in the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms are muscle weakness and loss of coordination.
- Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS): This autoimmune disease begins with leg muscle weakness and progresses to weakness in eye, face and throat muscles. Symptoms include difficulty walking, talking, chewing and swallowing. About half of all cases are caused by small cell lung cancer.
- Myasthenia gravis: This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system. It leads to a breakdown in communication between nerve signals and muscles. Symptoms include muscle weakness, vision problems and difficulty swallowing.
Muscular dystrophy causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass. Over time, muscle deterioration can lead to difficulty with basic movements and everyday tasks. Our specialists treat all types of muscular dystrophy, including:
- Congenital muscular dystrophy: This type of muscular dystrophy is present at birth or develops shortly after birth.
- Congenital myopathy: These rare muscle disorders are typically present at birth or develop in infancy. Symptoms may include difficulty feeding and breathing or failure to meet typical developmental milestones.
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy: This type most commonly affects boys. Symptoms may include large calves, frequent falls, difficulty walking or learning disabilities.
- Becker muscular dystrophy: This is a type of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It causes similar symptoms but is usually less severe.
- Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy: This genetic disorder affects the face, shoulders and upper arms. It typically causes muscle weakness in these areas and can spread to other parts of the body.
- Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy: This type specifically affects the muscles in the arms or legs.
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA): This genetic disorder affects the nervous system and the muscles. It leads to deterioration (atrophy) in the muscles that control movement. SMA is usually more severe in the muscles close to the center of the body, such as around the spine.
Neuropathies are conditions that occur because of nerve damage or deterioration. They often cause tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the hands or feet. Our specialists care for patients with all types of neuropathies, including:
- Amyloid neuropathy: This neuropathy occurs when a protein called amyloid collects in the organs and tissues. The protein deposit leads to degeneration in the motor and sensory nerves.
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease: This group of genetic nerve diseases damages the nerves that send signals between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body (peripheral nerves). Symptoms include muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass and loss of sensation.
- Chronic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP): In this rare autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks myelin, the fatty covering that protects nerves. CIDP causes loss of reflexes, muscle control or balance.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome: This is a specific type of CIDP, often triggered by an infection. It may start as muscle weakness but can worsen and, in severe and rare cases, lead to paralysis.
- Familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP): This rare, progressive disorder also causes amyloid buildup that damages nerves. It is hereditary and often occurs because of a change (mutation) in the TTR gene.
- Focal neuropathy: Focal neuropathies occur when nerve damage affects only one nerve. This type of neuropathy is less common and usually affects a nerve in the hand, torso, head or leg.
Tests and treatments we offer
Many neuromuscular disorders have similar symptoms. Our specialists use an array of advanced tools to help us make an accurate diagnosis and provide care targeted to each patient’s needs.
Tests to diagnose a neuromuscular disorder may include:
- Electrodiagnostic testing, such as electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies to measure muscle and nerve function
- Single-fiber EMG, a specialized EMG that allows us to evaluate individual muscle fibers and how they respond to electrical signals
- Imaging tests, such as MRI or ultrasound, to view muscles and nerves
- Muscle or nerve biopsy, a procedure that takes a sample of a small piece of muscle tissue or nerve fibers to evaluate in a lab
There is no cure for neuromuscular diseases, but our specialists work together to help patients experience a higher quality of life. Treatments may help manage symptoms, improve mobility and extend life. They can include:
- Assistive devices: When symptoms affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, we may recommend assistive devices. For example, using a cane or crutch may help people move around more easily. Patients may also use devices that help them with grooming or dressing, such as a device to help a person put on their socks by themselves.
- Medications: Patients may take steroids to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Immunosuppressant drugs may also be appropriate for autoimmune disorders. Some patients may take medication to manage secondary symptoms, such as antidepressants for anxiety or depression.
- Pain management: Neuromuscular treatment may include steroid injections. These steroids reduce back and neck pain stemming from nerve problems by lowering inflammation.
- Rehabilitation: We may refer patients to rehabilitation services to reduce pain, increase function and improve quality of life. Options may include physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy.
- Surgery: Some patients may benefit from orthopedic surgery. We may refer patients to a surgeon for a tendon transfer, bone realignment (osteotomy), hip reconstruction or spinal fusion.
Meet our team
Our neuromuscular doctors provide a full range of specialized services. We offer targeted, personalized care and lead neuromuscular disease clinical trials.