Signs and Symptoms of MD
As previously mentioned, certain subtypes of MD can differ. However, all types of MD share certain characteristics, and therefore the same signs and symptoms. In all forms of MD, the weakening of the skeletal muscles is progressive. At this time, there is no cure and no way to regain muscular function or structure. A loss of skeletal muscles leads to an impaired ability to walk, climb stairs, run, stand up, or raise the hands above the head. Because the spine is also supported by skeletal muscles, deformities of the spine often occur in those with MD. In the case of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, toddlers may have enlarged calf muscles, which is due to an abnormal growth of fibrous tissue that grows in order to replace missing muscle tissue.
The face contains several muscles that have different function, including those that aid in facial expression, digestion, and eye movement. The muscles of the neck support the spine and coordinate movements of the head, neck, and chest. When these muscles begin to waste, those functions become impaired. People suffering from severe DM often have difficulty speaking, chewing, and holding the head upright.
When DM begins to affect the respiratory muscles of the chest, breathing becomes more difficult. Often times, breathing becomes more shallow and occurs at a slower rate. These weak respirations lead to a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, which may cause different complications in the body, since oxygen is essential for all the body’s organs to function properly. Oxygen is especially important to the brain. As a result, those with MD may suffer from headaches, memory loss, poor concentration, sleep disorders, mood changes, and some cognitive impairments. In addition, weak respirations may make a person more prone to lung infections, which can be life-threatening.
The heart itself is also affected by MD, since the heart is composed almost entirely of muscle. Gradual weakening of the heart muscle leads to a weak heart that is unable to pump blood throughout the body. This condition is known as cardiomyopathy and may be fatal if not treated.
In addition to the physical effects of MD, the disorder may also affect mental health. It is not uncommon for those suffering from MD to develop depression, anxiety, or both.