Muscle dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of diseases that cause the degeneration or weakness of muscles that control movement. More than 30 diseases fall under the umbrella of “muscular dystrophy,” and they are all genetic disorders.
Types and Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy
Some of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy include Duchenne MD (the most common), Becker MD, facioscapulohumeral MD and myotonic MD. The disease varies in severity and symptoms from type to type, but all kinds of muscular dystrophy share some similarities. Duchenne MD, for example, starts between the ages of 2 and 6 and is progressive. By age 10, most children with Duchenne MD will need a wheelchair for movement and will also have heart and lung problems. Scoliosis, or a curved spine, is also common. Becker MD is similar to Duchenne, but it’s less severe, often starts later and only affects boys.
Facioscapulohumeral MD, on the other hand, affects primarily the shoulders and face and starts in the teen or early adult years. It can range from very mild symptoms to much more severe, where raising hands or closing eyes are difficult to do. Myotonic MD, the most common adult form, can lead to heart problems, muscle spasms and cataracts, among other problems.
The treatment for muscular dystrophy will vary somewhat depending on the type and severity of the illness. Many forms of therapy, including physical, occupational and speech therapy, are helpful to those with muscular dystrophy. Some people will need wheelchairs and other assistive devices for movement. Many different drugs can be used to relieve pain, ease symptoms and fight the complications that may arise as a result of having muscular dystrophy.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; KidsHealth, Nemours Foundation