Hypotonia in Babies

June 27, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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If you’re the parent of a baby with hypotonia, you very likely have questions and concerns. To see your small child deal with the difficulties that accompany this diagnosis is incredibly hard, and you want to be sure he or she receives the best treatment they can. The long-term prognosis for hypotonia can have a lot to do with the underlying cause, but the good news is that symptoms can often improve with treatment.

One of the best steps anyone can take if their baby is living with hypotonia is to gain a clear understanding of this condition, the causes, and the effective treatments. We’re sharing the following information so parents and caregivers can work with doctors and other medical professionals on an informed and engaged basis.

What is hypotonia?

Hypotonia is a clinical term for weak muscle tone. Muscle tone basically means the amount of tension in the muscles when they are at rest. With hypotonia, there is little or no resistance in the muscles.

Because resting muscle tone is what allows the body to support itself while sitting, laying down, standing, or doing any activity, hypotonia can have a negative impact on basic functioning.

In many cases, Hypotonia is present at birth, and so is often diagnosed in babies due to the recognizable nature of symptoms, although the condition can also be present in adulthood. Hypotonia in babies is also sometimes called “floppy infant syndrome.”

Hypotonia is the opposite of a condition known as hypertonia, which is excessive muscle tension.

Hypotonia Causes

Hypotonia is the direct result of a neurological problem that disrupts communication between the brain and the muscles. The nerve signals that normally tell the muscles to tense and relax can be affected by a wide range of conditions and injuries affecting the brain and nervous system. It is possible for hypotonia to be a stand-alone diagnosis, or have an unknown cause, but it is more commonly the symptom of another condition or injury.

The conditions or injuries that can result in hypotonia in babies include:

  • Lack of oxygen during birth
  • Congenital brain disorders
  • Infection
  • Brain damage
  • Achondroplasia
  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Spinal cord or brain injuries

Hypotonia Risk Factors

Risk factors for hypotonia are related to the underlying condition. Babies born prematurely, who suffer injury, and who have a family history of a condition that causes hypotonia can be at the highest risk for developing this condition.

Hypotonia Symptoms

Hypotonia can cause babies to have difficulties holding their head upright, bending elbows and knees, and sitting up. This can lead to a range of developmental difficulties and delays. Common symptoms of hypotonia include:

  • Limpness when being held
  • Inability to place weight on legs
  • Weak cry
  • General muscle weakness
  • Inability to lift head or support neck muscles
  • Arms and legs lay flat at the sides while at rest without a bend

Hypotonia Complications

The most common complications related to hypotonia are delayed developmental milestones, including sitting up, turning over, crawling, walking, speaking, and feeding themself. On a long-term basis, hypotonia is a lifelong diagnosis with ongoing care needs, but symptoms can improve with proper treatment.

Diagnosing Hypotonia

Doctors will usually diagnose hypotonia at birth due to the visible symptoms. In addition to discussing symptoms, reviewing medical history, and performing a physical examination, your doctor may order additional testing to determine the underlying cause. This can include imagery such as an MRI or CT scan, genetic testing, and electromyograms, which measure nerve and muscle function.

Hypotonia Treatment

If doctors are able to discover the underlying condition causing the hypotonia, a comprehensive treatment plan will be created. Specific symptomatic treatment options for hypotonia can include:

  • Working with pediatric physical and occupational therapists to improve motor skills and coordination
  • Addressing difficulties with speech, language, breathing, and swallowing through therapy
  • Nutritional therapy through a feeding tube in more serious cases

Caring for Babies with Hypotonia

Although this can be a lifelong condition, many babies do show noticeable improvement in muscle tone as they get older, particularly with treatment.

Since babies with hypotonia have extensive care needs and require closer supervision, it can place a strain on many families. This is particularly true for single parents, working parents, and families with multiple children and busy schedules. To help, pediatric home health services can play a tremendous role in meeting the care needs of children with hypotonia in a wide variety of ways. From providing feeding assistance to accompanying children to appointments, pediatric home health can fill many essential care gaps.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.