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Learn about your loss of muscle mass, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your loss of muscle mass from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Loss of Muscle Mass Checker

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Your Loss of Muscle Mass May Also be Known as:
Loss of strength
Muscle atrophy
Muscles are smaller
Weak muscles
Weakness

Loss of Muscle Mass Symptoms

Muscles are important to our every day function, and so when one noticeably loses muscle mass it can be disturbing. Losing some muscle mass is a normal part of growing old. While losing some muscle with age is typical, losing muscle mass rapidly, or atrophy, especially in the context of other symptoms, can be indicative of a serious underlying condition.

Loss of muscle mass may be associated with these common symptoms:

Loss of Muscle Mass Causes Overview

Most people lose muscle mass as they age, which tends to happen slowly and over time. Additionally, muscle mass can be lost in such a fashion as a result of switching to a more sedentary lifestyle. However, if muscle mass is rapidly lost, this can be a symptom of severe disease.

Lifestyle-related causes:

  • Aging: Aging is characterized by replacement of some muscle mass with fatty tissue.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Use it or lose it! Using your muscles can ensure they stay strong.
  • Exercise: Exercise may lead to the strengthening of certain muscle groups at the expense of others. Running a marathon, for instance, may lead to some muscle breakdown in the unused muscles, even as the legs become stronger.

Systemic causes:

  • Cancer: Advanced cancers use a lot of energy and may break down muscle as a source of body fuel.
  • Chronic Disease: Advanced diseases of the lungs, heart, or kidneys can lead to loss of muscle mass.
  • Neurologic Deficits: Altered cognition and movement difficulties associated with neurologic disease can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Medication Side Effect: Some medications may cause loss of muscle mass.
  • Genetic: Rare genetic diseases can result in loss of muscle mass.

Metabolic causes:

  • Malnutrition: Extremely poor diet can lead to loss of muscle mass as your body breaks down the muscles for energy.
  • Endocrine Disease: Imbalance of various hormones caused by damage to hormone-producing glands can lead to unintentional weight loss. Examples include diabetes or an over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Inflammatory causes:

  • Autoimmune Disease: Autoimmune disease, when your immune system becomes confused and attacks your own tissues, can lead to weight loss due to the associated high energy use.
  • Infectious Disease: Chronic infection can cause weight loss and loss of muscle mass as your body breaks down tissues for energy.

Gastrointestinal causes:

  • Malabsorption: Some diseases of your gastrointestinal tract make it less efficient at absorbing nutrients, leading to loss of muscle mass.
  • Inflammatory: Inflammation of your stomach or intestines can cause poor nutrient uptake.

Psychiatric causes:

  • Mood Disorder: Certain disorders of mood, especially depression, can lead to diminished appetite and subsequent loss of muscle mass.
  • Eating Disorder: People may lose muscle mass if they have an eating disorder that alters their nutritional intake.
  • Drug Use: Overuse of certain substances can lead to weight loss and loss of muscle mass. Examples include methamphetamines ("meth").

Top 6 Loss of Muscle Mass Causes

  1. 1.Cushing Syndrome

    Cushing Syndrome is a hormonal disorder. The cause is long-term exposure to too much cortisol, a hormone that the adrenal gland makes. Sometimes, taking synthetic hormone medicine like corticosteroids to treat an inflammatory disease leads to Cushing's syndrome.

    Your treatment will depend on why your have too much cortisol. If it is because you have been taking synthetic hormones, a lower dose may control your symptoms. If the cause is a tumor, surgery and other therapies may be needed, so a doctor's consultation in the near future is best.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, weight gain, back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy

    Nerve damage in the limbs can be caused by diabetes, toxic substances, immune system issues and low vitamin levels. However, in about one of every four cases no cause can be found and then the condition is called 'idiopathic'. Symptoms of nerve damage can be (burning) pain sensations, numbness, tingling and weakness in hands, feet or lower legs.

    You should visit your physician to discuss your symptoms. A referral to a neurologist might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    muscle aches, distal numbness, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Neuralgic Amyotrophy

    Hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy is a disorder characterized by episodes of severe pain and muscle wasting (amyotrophy) in one or both shoulders and arms. Neuralgic pain is felt along the path of one or more nerves and often has no obvious physical cause. The network of nerves involved in hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy, called the brachial plexus, controls movement and sensation in the shoulders and arms.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will likely coordinate care with a nerve specialist (neurologist). Treatment for this condition involves pain management with medication, as well as physical therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    arm weakness, pain in the back of the neck, general numbness, severe shoulder pain, difficulty moving the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Loss of Muscle Mass Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having loss of muscle mass.

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  4. 4.Osteoid Osteoma

    An osteoid osteoma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that usually develops in the long bones of the legs. The thigh bone (femur) is affected most commonly, although the bones of the hand or the spine can have occasional involvement. This condition is most often found in young people.

    You should visit your primary care physician. This condition requires a variety of treatments such as minimally invasive surgery to kill or scrape off the tumor.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that shoots to the butt, upper back pain, spontaneous back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with osteoid osteoma:
    hip pain, bilateral leg swelling, weakness in both arms, weakness of both legs
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathy

    Idiopathic inflammatory myopathy refers to a closely related group of conditions that cause inflammation of muscle tissue.

    Make an appointment with a physician to determine exactly what subtype of inflammatory myopathy you are experiencing. The physician will most likely prescribe a oral steroid to reduce inflammation and put in an IV to protect the kidneys.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, muscle aches, fever, rash, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Mitochondrial Myopathy

    Mitochondrial myopathy includes a group of inherited genetic disorders that affect the muscles of the body.

    Make an appointment with a physician to further analyze what genetic defects may be present, and begin prescription treatment.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    core symptoms of mitochondrial myopathy, fatigue, muscle aches, unintentional weight loss, decreased exercise tolerance
    Symptoms that always occur with mitochondrial myopathy:
    core symptoms of mitochondrial myopathy
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Loss of Muscle Mass Treatments and Relief

Most of the time when people lose muscle mass, it is due to a change to a more sedentary lifestyle or due to normal aging. Loss of muscle mass or significant weight loss in other contexts, however, can be indicative of a more serious condition which merits full medical evaluation. If you have rapidly and unintentionally lost weight and muscle mass, you should see a physician.

At-home loss of muscle mass treatments:

  • Exercise: The most effective way to build your muscles is to use them. Go on a run, hit up the gym, and get active!
  • Diet alteration: You can lose muscle mass if you don't eat enough, as your body will turn to breaking down muscle for energy.

Professional loss of muscle mass treatments:

  • Blood and urine testing: Lab tests will be performed to check your nutrition and other metrics.
  • Imaging: X-raysor other imaging may be required to figure out the cause of your loss of muscle mass symptoms.
  • Muscle testing: Strength and testing of the nerves feeding muscles can help with diagnosis.
  • Physical or occupational therapy: In some cases, therapies can be administered to help build strength or function.
  • Medication: Some medical conditions causing muscle loss can be treated with medication.
  • Surgery: Rarely, loss of muscle mass may be caused by a disease requiring an operation.

You should seek help without delay if you have:

  • Fever, chills, or signs of infection
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Any new bumps or masses
  • Sudden onset confusion
  • Frequent falls or imbalance

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Loss of Muscle Mass

  • Q.Is your fatigue getting any better or worse?
  • Q.How long has your fatigue been going on?
  • Q.Is your fatigue constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.How fatigued are you?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our loss of muscle mass symptom checker.

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Loss of Muscle Mass Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced loss of muscle mass have also experienced:

    • 12% Fatigue
    • 7% General Weakness
    • 3% Pain in One Shoulder
  • People who have experienced loss of muscle mass were most often matched with:

    • 5% Neuralgic Amyotrophy
    • 3% Cushing Syndrome
    • 3% Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy

Loss of Muscle Mass Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having loss of muscle mass.

Take a quiz