Hypotonia isthe medical term for decreased muscle tone.
Healthy muscles are never fully relaxed. They retain a certain amount of tension and stiffness (muscle tone) that can be felt as resistance to movement.
For example, a person relies on the tone in their back and neck muscles to maintain their position when standing or sitting up. Muscle tone decreases during sleep, so if you fall asleep sitting up, you may wake up with your head flopped forward.
Hypotonia isn't the same as muscle weakness, although it can be difficult to use the affected muscles. In some conditions, muscle weakness sometimes develops in association with hypotonia.
Itis most commonly detected in babies soonafter birth or at a very young age, although it can also develop later in life.
Hypotonia present at birth is often noticeable by the time a child is six months old, if not before. Newborn babies and young children with severe hypotonia are often described as being "floppy".
Signs of hypotonia ina child include:
A child with hypotonia often takes longer to reach motor developmental milestones, such as sitting up, crawling, walking, talking and feeding themselves.
An adult with hypotonia may have the following problems:
Hypotonia is a symptom rather than a condition. It canbe caused by a number ofdifferent underlying health problems, many of which are inherited.
Hypotonia can also sometimes occur in Cerebral palsy , where a number of neurological (brain-related) problems affect a child's movement and co-ordination, and after serious infections, such as meningitis .
In some cases, babies born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy) have hypotonia because their muscle tone isn't fully developed by the time they're born.However, provided there are no other underlying problems, this should gradually improve as the baby develops and gets older.
The specialist will ask about your family history, pregnancy and delivery, and whether any problems have occurred since birth.
A number of tests may also be recommended, including blood tests , a computerised tomography (CT) scan , or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan .
Babies with hypotonia caused by an infection or another condition will usually improve if the underlying condition is treated successfully.
Unfortunately, it's often not possible to cure the underlying cause of hypotonia. Hypotonia thathas beeninherited will persist throughout a person's life, althoughthe child's motor development may steadily improve over timein cases that are non-progressive (don't get worse).
Treatment can also help improve functions such as mobility and speech. In these cases, treatment mayinvolve physiotherapy , occupational therapy ,and speech and language therapy.
Find out what hypotonia is, what causes it, plus how it's diagnosed and treated.
Read about the causes of hypotonia, which can be neurological, such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, or non-neurological, such as congenital hypothyroidism or Down's syndrome.
Read about how suspected cases of hypotonia are initially assessed and the further tests that may be recommended.