Muscular Dystrophy

1 What is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is a hereditary condition that causes loss of muscle mass and progressive weakness. The mutation or the abnormal genes prevents the production of proteins in our body.

Some of the symptoms may begin as early as childhood mostly in boys, some may lose the ability to walk eventually.

Some people who have muscular dystrophy will have a hard time swallowing or breathing.

There is no known cure for muscular dystrophy but of course there are drugs or medications that van be used to slow the course of the disease as well as therapy that can help manage symptoms.

2 Symptoms

Specific signs and symptoms begin at different ages and in different muscle groups, depending on the type of muscular dystrophy.

Progressive muscle weakness is the most common sign of muscular dystrophy. It begins at different ages and in different muscle groups. Duchenne muscular dystrophy mostly affects boys but girls can also have this disease.

The symptoms usually appear at toddler stage, they may have difficulty in getting up once they stumble or fall or even if they are just sitting down or lying down. They will have trouble walking on toes, running, jumping and hopping. They may also have muscle pains and will experience stiffness. They will also experience learning disabilities.

The Becker muscular dystrophy is another kind of muscular dystrophy. This mostly begins at teens or until mid-20's or beyond 20's. There are other types of muscular dystrophy depending on the specific feature or where in the parts of the body the symptoms begin.

The Steinert's disease which is known as myotonic, inability to relax the muscles, this is the most common form of muscular dystrophy in adults. The face is the first to be affected including the neck then the muscle weakness will go down to your shoulders. It may occur as early as childhood or in your 40's.

Congenital is the type which affects boys and girls equally and as early as 2 years old. It can cause mild disability but some may cause severe impairment. The limb girdle will affect your shoulder and hip first. You may have difficult time in lifting and may stumble often. Advice to see a physician if you think your child has muscular dystrophy.

3 Causes

Certain genes are involved in making proteins that protect muscle fibers from damage. Muscular dystrophy is caused when one of these genes is defective.

A genetic mutation is one of the causes of muscular dystrophy.

These are inherited form your parents or other members of your family, but it may also occur in the mother’s eggs or inside the embryo and can be passed on your children or your children’s children.

4 Making A Diagnosis

If you believe your child has this, you must find a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of muscular dystrophy.

  • Write down the symptoms that he is experiencing and for how long he is experiencing these symptoms.
  • Write down your medical history or family history.
  • Write down the supplements, vitamins and medications that he is taking every day.
  • Tell the doctor if anyone in your family have been diagnosed with this disease.

Write down the questions that you want to ask the physician:

  • What are the causes of muscular dystrophy?
  • What are the most common symptoms and signs of muscular dystrophy?
  • What are the laboratory tests or exams that my child needs to take?
  • What treatments or medications my child needs to take?
  • What would be the long term outlook?

Your doctor may ask you:

  • When did you notice it starts?
  • What are the symptoms and signs?
  • Are they getting worse or gradually reducing?
  • Has anyone in your family had muscular dystrophy?
  • Do you have a family planning?

After asking these questions, your doctor will give you a physical examination and may recommend different kinds of treatments such as:

  • Enzyme tests, enzymes are released by our damaged muscles like creatine kinase.
  • Electromyography, in this procedure the muscle will be tested by inserting an electrode needle.
  • The pattern of electrical activity in our body has muscular disease if it changes and it will be measured as you relax.
  • Genetic blood testing, they will examine your blood if there are mutations in your genes.
  • Muscle biopsy, the sample tissue can recognize muscle dystrophy from other muscular diseases and they will get a tiny muscle through a hollow needle in order for them to analyze the tissue.
  • Heart and lung monitoring tests, to check the functions of your heart and lungs. These are echocardiogram and electrocardiography.

5 Treatment

There is no known cure for muscular dystrophy but there are medications and treatments that can reduce the issues with your joints and spinal cord:

  • The medications that your doctor may recommend are heart medications like angiotensin which are beta blockers so that muscular dystrophy will not damage the heart;
  • Corticosteroids also known as steroids that helps improve muscle strength and postpone the muscular dystrophy of a person, but there are side effects such as weight gain and bone weakness;
  • therapy can also be used so it will make the person with muscular dystrophy live longer, it includes low impact exercises such as swimming and walking that can help your mobility, general health and maintain the strength of your body;
  • stretching because muscular dystrophy will limit the mobility and flexibility of the joints in our body;
  • braces can also help to keep the muscles stretched and flexible and it will give support to the muscles and joints;
  • there are also mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs and canes;
  • breathing assistance because some of the people who has severe muscular dystrophy will need breathing machines to help them breathe;
  • surgery to correct a spinal curvature.

Ask your doctor first if you are going to do some exercises.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with muscular dystrophy.

Vaccination for pneumonia and influenza shots will help you reduce the possibility of muscular dystrophy and that you will not have respiratory infections. You may also have diet but proper nutrition of your body is important.

Ask your doctor first what kind on diet you are allowed to take.

There are coping methods for muscular dystrophy such as seek advice or find someone that you can talk to like a close family member or a friend.

Also, there are support groups, if there is one in your area, take advantage of it.

If your kid has muscular dystrophy, ask your pediatrician first how to handle and at the same time discuss this with your kid, so that you may explain it properly.

7 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophy can be seen in both sexes and in all races and ages, but the most common occurs in boys. It is hereditary.

You are at high risk if one of the members of your family had muscular dystrophy.

Complications include:

  • shortening of the joints and tendons,
  • breathing problems,
  • scoliosis,
  • heart problems,
  • swallowing problems.