Benign congenital hypotonia
Hypotonia and its variants are medical labels which describe a condition of abnormally low muscle tone (the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle). Hypotonia is often treated as if it were a specific disorder, but is actually just one symptom of many possible specific disorders for which a proper diagnosis may or may not have been made. Diagnosing hypotonia is usually relatively straightforward, and is almost always found as early as infancy. Finding the underlying cause, however, can be difficult, and in the absense of other, more serious symptoms, if often not seriously attempted. more...
Despite the setbacks that hypotonia guarantees to a person's life, treatment and therapy can help hypotonic patients to adjust to their disability.
Hypertonic patients may display a variety symptoms that indicate decreased muscle tone. Motor skills delay is often observed, along with hypermobile or hyperflexible joints, drooling and speech difficulties, poor reflexes, decreased strength, decreased activity tolerance, rounded shoulder posture, with leaning onto supports, and poor attention and motivation. The extent and occurence of specific symptoms depends upon the underlying cause, and which muscles are involved. For instance, some hypertonics may experience constipation, while others have no bowel problems.
Since hypotonia is most often diagnosed during infancy, it is also known as "floppy infant syndrome" or "infantile hypotonia." Infants who suffer from hypotonia are often described as feeling and appearing as though they are "rag dolls" or a "sack of jello," easily slipping through one's hands. This image demonstrates the floppiness of a hypotonic infant. They are unable to maintain flexed ligaments, and are able to extend them beyond normal lengths. Often, the movement of the head is uncontrollable, not in the sense of spasmatic movement, but chronic ataxia. Hypotonic infants often have difficulty feeding, as their mouth muscles cannot maintain a proper suck-swallow pattern, or a good breastfeeding latch.
Children with normal muscle tone are expected to achieve certain physical abilities within an average timeframe after birth. Most low-tone infants have delayed developmental milestones, but the length of delay can vary widely. Motor skills are particularly susceptible to the low-tone disability. They can be divided into two areas, gross motor skills, and fine motor skills, both of which are affected. Hypotonic infants are late in lifting their heads while lying on their stomachs, rolling over, lifting themselves into a sitting position, remaining seated without falling over, balancing, crawling, and walking. Fine motor skills delays occur in grasping a toy or finger, tranfering a small object from hand to hand, pointing out objects, following movement with the eyes, and self feeding.
Speech difficulties can result from hyptonia. Low-tone children learn to speak later than their peers, even if they appear to understand a large vocabulary, or can obey simple commands. Difficulties with muscles in the mouth and jaw can inhibit proper pronunciation, and discourage experimentation with word combination and sentence-forming. Since the hypotonic condition is actually a symptom of some underlying disorder, it can be difficult to determine whether speech delays are a result of poor muscle tone, or some other neurological condition, such as mental retardation, that may be associated with the cause of hypotonia.
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