What Causes Weakness in Leg?

Weakness in leg can result from a number of causes; some of which life-threatening. Treatments are available that can help in restoring muscle strength in legs.

Leg weakness can develop in a single leg or both legs at a time. You might feel it as a part of an overall weakness that you are having in your entire body. Illness or tiredness often leads people to perceive that their muscles are becoming weak, however in truth weakness only happens when the muscles lose their power. So, the muscle weakness you feel is not a result of muscle function loss. This article will shed light on the actual causes of power loss in leg muscles.

What Causes Leg Weakness?

1.       Sciatica

Issues with the spinal cord can result in the compression or pinching of the nerves that are exiting the spinal cord via holes present between the backbone's many vertebrae, which also causes weakness in legs.

There are a number of conditions that can cause Sciatica. The signature sign of sciatica is a radiating pain that goes from the lumbar region of the spine to the buttock and then all the way down to the back of the leg. Although the discomfort can be felt all along the nerve pathway, it is highly likely that it will follow the path from the lower back to the buttock and then down the back of the thigh and the calf. 

2.       Neuromuscular Causes

There are a number of neuromuscular diseases that can result in leg weakness. Some of these diseases include Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Cerebral Palsy, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Rhabdomyolysis, Muscular Dystrophy, Polymyositis and Myasthenia Gravis.   

3.       Drugs and Toxins

Muscle weakness can be caused due to the use of certain drugs and toxins as well. For instance, Botulinum toxin, corticosteroids, statins and organophosphate poisoning can result in loss of strength in muscles.

4.       Guillain-Barre syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rarely occurring autoimmune disorder. In this condition, the immune system of the body starts attacking its own nerves. Tingling and weakness in the extremities are among the initial symptoms of this disorder. 

The tingling sensations tend to progress rapidly and after a time paralyzes the entire body. Guillain-Barre syndrome can become a medical emergency in severe cases. You will have to receive treatment in the hospital if you acquire this condition.

5.       Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a strange condition in which the patient feels extreme exhaustion and fatigue for no reason. There is no underlying medical condition for the fatigue but it generally worsens when a person performs either mental or physical activity and subsides with rest.

6.       Other Causes

  • Arthritis that targets the spine
  • Herniated disc
  • A tumor, abscess or injury to the spinal cord
  • Degenerative disc disease or spondylosis (degeneration of the spinal discs) 
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column, resulting in pressure on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord).
  • Trauma to the joints, bones or muscles can lead to weakness in leg, examples including bone fractures, strains and sprains.

When to See a Doctor

Muscle weakness in legs that appears suddenly can point to a stroke which is a dangerous condition in which a portion of the brain is unable to get the necessary oxygen.

Leg weakness that occurs without warning and is felt primarily on one side of the body requires you to seek medical care immediately. You must call your doctor immediately if the weakness is accompanied by symptoms like numbness, double or blurred vision, loss of vision, severe headache, loss of bowel or bladder control, lethargy, paralysis, fainting, inability to move a part of the body, fever greater than 101 Fahrenheit or change in your consciousness level.  

How to Treat Weakness in Leg

The condition of the disease decides the treatment for weakness caused by a local nerve disease. Surgery is usually not required and medicines are enough to treat most of these conditions. You might have to use the medicines for a lengthy period of time though sometimes even spanning years. 

Surgery is the main treatment method for leg weakness that results from a nerve compression or issue with the spinal cord. However, vertebra fractures and sciatica have to be treated with painkillers and rest for up to 6 weeks before simple exercises and physical therapy is advised to strengthen the weakened muscles.

Regular exercise is needed to maintain the muscle tone and overall health of the body. Exercises like yoga, Pilates, swimming, walking and Tai Chi are excellent for strengthening the leg muscles. Perform exercises under the instruction of your doctor.

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