Muscular Dystrophy

What is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of more than thirty rare disorders that lead to the progressive weakness of muscles and loss of muscle mass. It is caused by a genetic mutation that hinders the production of the proteins that are needed for the development of healthy muscles. It most often becomes apparent during childhood, usually in boys, although some cases do not appear until adulthood or even middle age.

Different types of dystrophy will affect different sets of muscles as well as when symptoms first appear, how fast it progresses, and the pattern of inheritance. Likewise, the prognosis for any given case varies based on these same factors. Several research groups are conducting studies on the disorder so that it can be better understood and treatments can be improved.

What are the Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is usually first noticed when the patient begins to experience weak muscles.

Symptoms include

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Flabby muscles
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle shortening
  • Learning disability
  • Delayed development
  • Walking on tip toe
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Shallow breathing

Further complications that can arise as a result of the condition include scoliosis, heart problems, and breathing difficulties.

How is Muscular Dystrophy Treated?

While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, there are various treatments to help patients manage their symptoms more effectively.

Treatments include

Physical therapy and exercise are two of the more common methods, as these help strengthen muscles and promote movement. Corticosteroids and also improve muscle strength, and heart medications may be prescribed if muscular dystrophy has caused damage to the heart. When stabilization is needed, braces may be used. In cases affecting the legs, patients will likely eventually require walking aids such as a walker, a cane, or a wheelchair. Patients experiencing scoliosis might require surgery to improve posture and correct spinal curvature.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017
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