by Rick Alan
Muscular dystrophy is a group of inherited, progressive muscle disorders. All forms cause progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles that control movement. Some also affect the heart or other organs. Age of onset is between infancy to adulthood. The different forms include:
This condition is caused by defects in genes that control muscle development and function. In some cases, the genes are passed from parent to child. In other cases, the genetic mutation occurs spontaneously.
These factors increase your chance of developing muscular dystrophy. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Symptoms common to most forms of muscular dystrophy may include:
Symptoms specific to Duchenne and Becker dystrophy include:
Symptoms specific to myotonic muscular dystrophy include:
Symptoms usually become progressively worse. In many forms, life expectancy is shortened.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will also do a physical exam.
Tests may include:
There is no cure. However, treatment may help improve the symptoms.
Treatment may consist of:
Physical therapy and exercise can help prevent the muscles from permanently contracting and stiffening.
In earlier stages, wearing braces may improve your ability to move around. A back brace may slow curvature of the spine.
Medicines may include:
Much research is being done in this area. A new technique called “gene transfer” therapy has been used with some good early results in certain forms of dystrophy.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to release muscles that are painfully tight. If there are heart problems, a pacemaker may be needed.
Muscular dystrophy is an inherited disease. Get genetic counseling if you are concerned about having a child with muscular dystrophy, especially if you:
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
Canadian Institute of Health Research
Muscle Dystrophy Canada
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Last reviewed [Under Medical Review] by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH
Last Updated: 9/20/2011