Muscular Dystrophy (MD)

Also known as: MD.

What is muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy describes a broad group of many (there are 9 major types), chronic, progressive illnesses that cause the muscles of the body to become increasingly weak and less flexible over time. It can lead to a number of problems that can vary from person to person.

What causes muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is caused by an abnormality in the gene that causes muscles to be healthy. In some children (uncommonly) it's the result of a genetic mutation (in which case your child may be the first in the family to be affected) or, more usually the defective gene is passed down from parent to child.

What are the symptoms of muscular dystrophy?

In some the disease starts early in childhood; others don't have any symptoms until adolescents or even later. How the disease affects your child depends on the kind of muscular dystrophy he/she has as there are differences in the muscles that can be affected and whether or how quickly the disease gets worse.

Symptoms of muscular dystrophy can vary based on the type, severity and where the disease is in its progression.

Gradually progressive weakness and loss of muscle function are the characteristic traits; children may fall often, have muscle cramps, have difficulty climbing stairs or walk on their toes, depending on which muscles are most affected.

As the disease progresses, it can lead to complications such as breathing problems, heart problems, a curved spine, swallowing problems and others.

What are muscular dystrophy care options?

At the moment, there is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Treatments will vary depending on a number of factors, however there are a variety of medications which help manage the complications of muscular dystrophy, and various therapies (for example physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy) can improve movement and daily functions.

Surgery may be indicated for deformities that occur over time as a result of muscular dystrophy.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 06, 2023 03:48 PM

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