Hypotonia, or poor muscle tone, is usually detected at birth or during infancy.
If your infant has hypotonia, they may appear limp at birth and not be able to
keep their knees and elbows bent. Your child may continue to struggle with
feeding and motor skills as they grow.
Many different diseases and disorders cause the symptoms of hypotonia. It’s easily recognizable because it affects muscle
strength, motor nerves, and the brain. However, diagnosing the disease or
disorder that is causing the problem can be challenging.
Hypotonia is sometimes called floppy muscle syndrome.
Signs of hypotonia
Depending on the underlying cause, hypotonia can appear at any age. Signs of
hypotonia in infants and children include:
or no head control
in gross motor skills development, such as crawling
in fine motor skills development, such as grasping a crayon
Signs of hypotonia at any age include:
in muscle tone
in activity endurance
Causes of hypotonia
Hypotonia can be triggered by a problem with the nervous system or muscular
system. Sometimes it’s the result of an injury,
illness, or inherited disorder. Sometimes a cause is never identified.
Some children are born with hypotonia that is not related to a separate
condition. This is called benign congenital hypotonia. Physical, occupational,
and speech therapy can help your child gain muscle tone and stay on track with
development. Some children with benign congenital hypotonia have minor
developmental delays or learning disabilities. These disabilities may continue
Hypotonia can be caused by conditions that affect the brain, central nervous
system, or muscles. These conditions include:
damage, which can be caused by lack of oxygen at birth
In many cases, these chronic conditions require lifelong care and treatment.
Hypotonia can also be caused by genetic conditions. These conditions
Children with Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome often benefit from
therapy. Children with Tay-Sachs disease and trisomy 13 typically have
Rarely, hypotonia is caused by botulism infections or contact with poisons
or toxins. However, the hypotonia often goes away after you recover.
When to see a doctor
Hypotonia may be diagnosed at birth. In some cases, however, you may not
notice your child’s condition
until they’re older. An indicator is that
your child is not meeting developmental milestones. Schedule regular
appointments for your child with a doctor. Be sure to mention any concerns you
have about your child’s progress.
Your doctor will assess your child’s
development and run tests if they have concerns. Tests may include blood tests
and MRI and CT scans.
If you notice sudden signs of the condition in a person of any age, seek
emergency medical care.
Treatment varies depending on how your child is affected. Your child’s general health and ability
to participate in therapies will shape a treatment plan. Some children work
frequently with physical therapists. Depending upon your child’s abilities, they may work
toward specific goals such as sitting upright, walking, or taking part in
sports. In some cases, your child may need help with their coordination and
other fine motor skills.
Children with severe conditions may need wheelchairs for mobility. Because
this condition makes joints very loose, it’s common to have joint
dislocations. Braces and casts can help prevent and correct these injuries.
What is the long-term outlook for people with hypotonia?
The long-term outlook depends on the following:
Having hypotonia can be challenging. It’s often a lifelong
condition, and your child will need to learn coping mechanisms. They may also
need therapy. However, it’s not life-threatening,
except in the cases of motor neuron or cerebellar dysfunction.