Tag Archives: Children with McArdle’s disease

A quick Google search of “adult-onset McArdle’s disease” will yield volumes of medical abstracts on patient studies. I’ve seen plenty of other abstracts that point out that the disease is not often diagnosed until at least the second or third decade of life. Perhaps this is because this is around the time the body’s metabolism starts to slow down a little, and the “weekend warrior” injuries become more common (and considerably more complicated, without glycogen in the picture.)

There may in fact be an adult-onset form of McArdle’s disease. I also suspect that many newly-diagnosed adults have lived with the disease their entire lives and simply gone without diagnosis, “toughing it out”. (In another article, I talk about how children with McArdle’s disease in particular are particularly vulnerable.)

A concerted campaign to educate grade school gym teachers, pediatricians and health care professionals about McArdle’s disease could spare many people the punishment of trying to force their bodies to do things they simply weren’t equipped to do. This may enable them to participate in alternate activities tailored to their unique condition, and improve their health later in life as a result through earlier proactive management of the disease.

Ultimately the question of whether or not there is an adult-onset form of McArdle’s is probably not as important as is education and information. The more people know about McArdle’s disease, the less likely it is that children and adults who remain undiagnosed will suffer and live with unanswered questions.  Your feedback on this topic is welcome.

Children with McArdle’s Disease are at significant disadvantage.  Children aren’t able to articulate themselves as well as adults and their symptoms are easily confused with being lazy or stubborn or simply uncooperative.  Children who are lagging behind because they are experiencing painful muscle failure from McArdle’s Disease may find their discomfort compounded by scolding or teasing from classmates or teachers. At some point, all children endure some form of teasing from friends or siblings or classmates.  However, those children more vulnerable to teasing for whatever reason – small stature, weight issues, appearance, or anything else – may be singled out, and excessive attention of this kind is unhealthy.

It is incumbent upon grade school physical education teachers, nurses, pediatricians and anyone else in a position of relevant authority to educate themselves on McArdle’s Disease and other conditions whose symptoms are easily mistaken for behavior issues or lack of cooperation.  Even the most observant teacher cannot tell simply by looking at a child whether or not their muscles work properly, and the way the symptoms of McArdle’s Disease manifest is deceptively similar to a simple lack of physical condition or laziness.

How to Know if a Child Has McArdle’s Disease

Here are some things you may observe:

  • Does the child complain of weariness on even moderately long walks?
  • Do smaller children complain of weariness and ask to be carried?
  • Do hills, stair cases, and other inclines elicit the responses above?
  • Does the child complain of “pain” in the legs in such incidents?
  • Does the child have difficulty performing even an average number of sit-ups or push-ups, even in a modified form?
  • Does the child have difficulty or otherwise avoid running laps in gym class?
  • Does the child demonstrate, in general, a lack of physical fitness that contradicts an otherwise healthy appearance, assuming they are not overweight?
  • Has the child ever complained of or demonstrated unusual muscle stiffness and cramping?
Any of these observations are worth investigating.  Again – children have only responsible adults as their advocates, and cannot reasonably be expected to know that something is wrong with them that they cannot help.  
The symptoms of McArdle’s Disease are subtle but specific.  Your attention and action can mean the difference between years of physical and emotional discomfort, and a more normal childhood.  If you are a physical education teacher who would like to know more about the disease, please contact us for information.