What Is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is an assortment of genetic conditions that primarily affect children, but can also affect adults. This is considered a rarer disease because there are fewer than 200,000 new cases in the United States each year. However, these diseases are often devastating, leading to progressive muscular weakness that affects an individual’s mobility. Eventually, muscular dystrophy can make it difficult for an individual to swallow or breathe, leading to a shorter life span.

There Are Numerous Types Of Muscular Dystrophy

Each patient who has muscular dystrophy has a different experience, and in some cases, the condition progresses rapidly. An individual will have deteriorating weakness in his skeletal muscles, and some types of muscular dystrophy affect the internal organs. Researchers have identified 30 varieties of muscular dystrophy, including:

• Duchenne muscular dystrophy – manifests in males at a young age
• Myotonic muscular dystrophy – an adult form of the disease
• Becker muscular dystrophy – primarily affects males
• Limb-Girdle muscular dystrophy – affects the legs and upper arms
• Distal muscular dystrophy – wasting of the legs, upper arms and hands
• Congenital muscular dystrophy – begins at birth

Some types of muscular dystrophy are caused by an inherited genetic abnormality, but in some cases, a gene mutates in the body’s cells, leading to the disease.

What Are the Symptoms Of Muscular Dystrophy?

There are several signs of muscular dystrophy, and an individual may have one or more of these symptoms:

• Gowers’ sign – extreme muscle weakness in the lower legs
• Muscle spasms – primarily in the legs and arms
• Cardiomyopathy – disease is in the heart’s muscles
• Respiratory difficulties – breathing complications
• Muscle inflexibility – poor range of motion
• Lower leg deformities – muscles in the lower leg are malformed
• Waddling gait – unusual walking pattern
• Scoliosis – curvature in the spine
• Balancing issues – problems maintaining balance
• Muscular wasting – muscles in the body shrink in size

How Is This Condition Diagnosed?

Diagnosing muscular dystrophy is complex because its symptoms are similar to other disorders, but physicians can perform genetic tests, electromyography and biopsies on tissues. The tissues required for a biopsy are collected from the affected muscles in the legs or arms.

What Are the Treatments For Muscular Dystrophy?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, but there are treatments such as respiratory therapy, supportive braces or corticosteroid medications. As the condition progresses, an individual will need occupational therapy to cope with the loss of muscle strength and mobility.