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.
Males are at increased risk for Duchenne dystrophy and Becker dystrophy. Factors that increase your chance of developing muscular dystrophy. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
The risk of muscular dystrophy is increased if you have a family member with muscular dystrophy.
Each type of muscular dystrophy has its own unique symptoms. For example, the muscles that are affected may differ depending upon the type.
Symptoms common to most forms of muscular dystrophy may include:
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Symptoms specific to Duchenne and Becker dystrophy include:
Symptoms specific to myotonic muscular dystrophy include:
Symptoms usually become worse over time. In many forms, life expectancy is shortened.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your blood may be tested for evidence of muscle damage
A muscle biopsy will identify the type of muscular dystrophy
Your muscles and nerves may be tested. This can be done with:
There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. 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.
Medications may include:
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
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Muscle Dystrophy Canada
Aartsma-Rus A, den Dunnen JT, et al. New insights in gene-derived therapy: the example of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2010;1214:199-212.
Amato AA, Griggs RC. Overview of the muscular dystrophies. Handb Clin Neurol. 2011;101:1-9.
Congenital muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://www.mda.org/disease/congenital-muscular-dystrophy. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Distal muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://mda.org/disease/distal-muscular-dystrophy. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Emery-dreifuss muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://mda.org/disease/emery-dreifuss-muscular-dystrophy. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Escolar DM, Hache LP, et al. Randomized, blinded trial of weekend vs daily prednisone in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Neurology. 2011;77(5):444-452.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://mda.org/disease/fsh-muscular-dystrophy. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://mda.org/disease/limb-girdle-muscular-dystrophy. Accessed May 11, 2016.
NINDS muscular dystrophy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/md/md.htm. Updated March 4, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://mda.org/disease/oculopharyngeal-muscular-dystrophy/overview. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2018 by John C. Keel, MD Last Updated: 10/14/2013