Muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a term used to describe a group of incurable diseases that progressively weaken the muscles in the body. The skeletal muscles are affected by gradual weakness. There are defects in the muscle proteins and the muscle cells and tissues are slowly dying out. There are several diseases that fit into the muscular dystrophy catergory, such as Duchenne, Becker, Congenital, Myotonic, Limb Girdle, Facioscapulohumeral, Oculopharyngeal, Emery-Dreifuss, and Distal. The two most common forms of muscular dystrophy are Duchenne and Becker. Muscular Dystrophy is a hereditary disease that most typically affects boys. Most commonly and dependent on the type of MD, it is transferred to the baby through the X chromosome and the disease comes from the mother’s gene.

The severity of muscular dystrophy can vary greatly from person to person and from the type of disease in which a patient is suffering from. Some types of muscular dystrophy progress much more quickly than others. Some of the symptoms and signs of muscular dystrophy include: weakness due to muscular wasting, falling, poor balance, calf pain, limited movement, a waddling gait, difficulty or inability to walk, scoliosis, drooping eyelids, mild retardation and/or respiratory difficulty. These are symptoms that may appear together or individually and may be noticed before or after a diagnosis has been made. Not all cases of muscular dystrophy will have all these side effects. Since there are several different types of muscular dystrophy, each affects the body differently. Some affect the muscles in only certain parts of the body where as another type will affect a completely different set of muscles. Some types of muscular dystrophy can affect organs such as the heart, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, nervous systems, skin or endocrine glands.

In order to diagnose muscular dystrophy a doctor may perform a simple DNA test or they may need to take a sample of the spinal fluid or perform a muscle biopsy. Unfortunately there is no cure for muscular dystrophy but depending on the type of the disease there are treatments available to help prolong a person’s life and slow the progression of the disease. Some times of muscular dystrophy can progress so slowly that a person is able to live out a normal lifespan.

Treatments for muscular dystrophy include physical therapies, occupational therapies, speech therapies, possible medications, and the use of leg braces, walkers and wheelchairs. Physical therapy has proven to offer good results in keeping the muscles stronger longer. Another reason physical therapy is used is to keep the tendons flexible as long as possible in order to keep full range of motion in the joints. When a person becomes bedridden or looses the inability to do any physical activity the muscles will deteriorate more quickly and the tendons will stiffen. Often it is hard to tell that the body is loosing muscle mass upon looking at the physical appearance of a person. This is because once the muscles start to deteriorate the fat and connective tissues start to replace the muscles, filling the void.

In certain types of muscular dystrophy medications may be beneficial. Medications such as corticosteroids may delay the disease and keep the muscles stronger longer. Other diseases may require the use of medications that can help prevent stiffness and muscle spasms. If the disease is affecting the respiratory system it may become necessary to use a ventilator or oxygen to breathe.

It is also possible to need surgery to correct the curvature of the spine or to release tendons that have become too constricted. Some of the most common tendons to need surgery on are the Achilles tendon, the tendons in the hip and the in knees.

Last updated on Jun 21st, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed