Mitochondrial myopathies are a group of neuromuscular diseases caused by damage to the mitochondria—small, energy-producing structures that serve as the cells' "power plants." Nerve cells in the brain and muscles require a great deal of energy, and thus appear to be particularly damaged when mitochondrial dysfunction occurs. Some of the more common mitochondrial myopathies include Kearns-Sayre syndrome, myoclonus epilepsy with ragged-red fibers, and mitochondrial encephalomyopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes. The symptoms of mitochondrial myopathies include muscle weakness or exercise intolerance, heart failure or rhythm disturbances, dementia, movement disorders, stroke-like episodes, deafness, blindness, droopy eyelids, limited mobility of the eyes, vomiting, and seizures. The prognosis for these disorders ranges in severity from progressive weakness to death. Most mitochondrial myopathies occur before the age of 20, and often begin with exercise intolerance or muscle weakness. During physical activity, muscles may become easily fatigued or weak. Muscle cramping is rare, but may occur. Nausea, headache, and breathlessness are also associated with these disorders.
Although there is no specific treatment for any of the mitochondrial myopathies, physical therapy may extend the range of movement of muscles and improve dexterity. Vitamin therapies such as riboflavin, coenzyme Q, and carnitine (a specialized amino acid) may provide subjective improvement in fatigue and energy levels in some patients.
The prognosis for patients with mitochondrial myopathies varies greatly, depending largely on the type of disease and the degree of involvement of various organs. These disorders cause progressive weakness and can lead to death.
The NINDS conducts and supports research on mitochondrial myopathies. The goals of this research are to increase scientific understanding of these disorders and to find ways to effectively treat, prevent, or potentially cure them.
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Voluntary health agency that fosters neuromuscular disease research and provides patient care funded almost entirely by individual private contributors. MDA addresses the muscular dystrophies, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, myasthenia gravis, Friedreich's ataxia, metabolic diseases of muscle, and inflammatory diseases of muscle, for a total of more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.
National Office - 222 S. Riverside Plaza
Chicago, IL 60606
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
Promotes research for cures and treatments of mitochondrial disorders and provides support for affected families. Represents adults and children alike and continues to serve families with a variety of programs.
8085 Saltsburg Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15239
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Works to improve quality of life for adults and children affected by mitochondrial disease and to raise awareness about mitochondrial disorders and their relationship to other diseases.
P.O. Box 51474
Boston, MA 02205