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Hypotonia - Symptoms of hypotonia

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Congenital hypotonia

The signs and symptoms of congenital hypotonia usually become noticeable by the time a child is six months of age. Signs and symptoms include:

  • your child has little or no control of their head,
  • your child feels limp when you hold them; they feel as though they could slip through your hands,
  • your child is unable to place any weight on their leg or shoulder muscles,
  • your child's arms and legs hang straight down from their sides, rather than flexing at their elbows and knees,
  • your child may slip or fall out of a high chair, and
  • your child may find feeding difficult.

In cases of congenital hypotonia, intelligence is usually unaffected (with the exception of Down's syndrome). However, your child may be slower in reaching 'developmental milestones', such as learning to:

  • sit up,
  • crawl,
  • walk,
  • talk, and
  • being able to feed themselves.

Acquired hypotonia

The time that it takes for the symptoms of hypotonia to progress will depend on the underlying cause. For example, acquired hypotonia that is caused by illness or infection can develop over the space of a few hours or days.

Acquired hypotonia that is caused by a long-term condition, such as muscular dystrophy, or myasthenia gravis, can develop over the space of many months or years.

In acquired hypotonia, the symptom of decreased muscle tone remains unchanged. However, it can make itself known in different ways when it develops during adulthood rather than childhood, such as:

  • suddenly finding yourself to be unusually clumsy,
  • experiencing frequent falls,
  • difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position,
  • your hips, elbows, and knees begin to feel unusually flexible, and
  • you find it difficult stretching to reach something, or lift up an object.
Medical Review: October 13, 2009
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