Muscle Loss As A Side Effect Of 3 Underdiagnosed Health Problems

2012-10-05 | |
Last updated: 2012-10-05

Cirrhosis Of The Liver Can Cause Muscle Wasting

Another under-diagnosed set of diseases of the internal organs that can lead to muscle loss are the various conditions leading to cirrhosis of the liver. Research from the Cleveland Clinic found this summer that in patients with liver disease, high levels of ammonia in the blood trigger muscle proteins to be broken down. Ammonia is created when the body breaks down protein and the liver normally converts the ammonia into urea, the main part of urine. When the liver is not functioning properly, ammonia accumulates in the blood thus causing more protein breakdown creating a self-feeding cycle.

What this means is that as the liver becomes less healthy, the risk for losing muscle mass increases. Research from the University of Alberta found that patients with Cirrhosis and low muscle mass had only half as long to live following diagnosis in comparison to patients that did not have the loss of muscle. With between 2% and 5% of the population living with liver disease and early stage liver disease considered a “silent” disease, many people are at risk of muscle loss that can reduce their chances of surviving.

Muscle Loss Among Those Having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

One last disease of an internal organ, the lung, can also cause a loss of muscle mass. Researchers from the University of Toronto have found that among many people with COPD, the levels of some enzymes that slow muscle growth were much higher. The research suggests that unlike other diseases where the rate of muscle breakdown is increased, with COPD, the body does not regenerate muscle as quickly as it should.

As a consequence of this slower muscle regeneration, the muscles of the heart and diaphragm become weaker over time. This contributes to the risk of death being almost 8 times higher for those with COPD and a low muscle mass in comparison to those with only COPD. With roughly 4% of the population living with COPD and an estimated 4% more not yet diagnosed, loss of muscle represents a serious risk to those with the lung disease.


While we may be most aware of muscle loss as a consequence of aging and some specific diseases, wasting of muscle can result from a number of conditions. Though we might not be concerned about muscle loss, thinking that we can build it up when we are again healthy, a loss of muscle is dangerous to our survival. This is because our heart and the diaphragm are also muscles that are weakened when we lose muscle mass. As a result, any loss of muscle should be treated seriously in order to protect our long-term health.

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Category: Disease Information, Disease Prevention, Health Risks, Symptom Information

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