Muscular Dystrophy is a group of disorders characterized by a progressive loss of muscle mass and consequent loss of strength.
The most common form of muscular dystrophy – Duchenne muscular dystrophy – typically affects young boys, but other variations can strike in adulthood.
Currently, there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, but certain physical and medical treatments can improve symptoms and slow the disease’s progression.
This article will look at the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments for muscular dystrophy, as well as examining current research into future treatment.
Here are some key points about muscular dystrophy. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Muscular dystrophy is a collection of muscle-wasting conditions
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common type
- A lack of a protein called dystrophin is the main cause of muscular dystrophy
- Gene therapies are currently being trialed to combat the disease
- There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy
What is muscular dystrophy?
Muscular dystrophy causes the gradual weakening of skeletal muscle.
Muscular dystrophy is a muscle-wasting disease whose predominant forms may affect up to 1 in every 5,000 males.
The condition is caused by genetic mutations that interfere with the production of muscle proteins necessary to build and maintain healthy muscles.
The disease is genetic, and consequently, a history of muscular dystrophy in the family increases the chance of an individual developing the disease.
There are a number of muscular dystrophy types, including the following:
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy – the most common form of the illness. Symptoms normally start before a child’s third birthday; they are generally wheelchair-bound by 12 and die of respiratory failure by their early-to-mid-twenties.
- Becker muscular dystrophy – similar symptoms to Duchenne but with a later onset and slower progression; death usually occurs in the mid-forties.
- Myotonic (Steinert’s disease) – the myotonic form is the most common adult-onset form. It is characterized by an inability to relax a muscle once it has contracted. The muscles of the face and neck are often affected first. Symptoms also include cataracts, sleepiness, and arrhythmia.
- Congenital – this type can be obvious from birth or before the age of 2. It affects girls and boys. Some forms progress slowly whereas others can move swiftly and cause significant impairment.
- Facioscapulohumeral (FSHD) – onset can be at almost any age but is most commonly seen during teenage years. The muscular weakness often begins in the face and shoulders. People with FSHD may sleep with their eyes slightly open and have trouble fully closing their eyelids. When an individual with FSHD raises their arms, their shoulder blades protrude like wings.
- Limb-girdle – this variant begins in childhood or teenage years and first effects the shoulder and hip muscles. Individuals with the limb-girdle muscular dystrophy might have trouble raising the front part of the foot, making tripping a common problem.
- Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy – onset is between the ages of 40 and 70. Eyelids, throat, and face are first affected, followed by the shoulder and pelvis.