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Muscular Dystrophy Frequently Asked Questions

Most people have heard of muscular dystrophy, but not everyone understands much about it or how to appropriately deal with someone who has it. This can lead to some completely unnecessary social awkwardness on both sides. Let's answer some of the most common questions people have about muscular dystrophy.

What is muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is the blanket term given for a category of diseases that are usually inherited and result in gradual muscle-wasting and accompanying weakness.

What is the type of muscular dystrophy that affects young boys?

This form is known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy or DMD. Its symptoms are usually first seen between the ages of two and six. A French doctor, Duchenne, first described it in 1861.

What is the cause of muscular dystrophy?

In most cases, the disease is inherited. In some cases, it isn't inherited, but a genetic mistake occurs in only the child themselves. This type is known as a "spontaneous mutation". Up to one third of DMD cases fit this category.

If someone carries muscular dystrophy, can they keep it from being passed on to their children?

Yes. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD is available in certain cases. The procedure involves the fertilization of eggs outside of the body and subsequent testing for the mutation. Normal embryos are then put back into the womb.

Is muscular dystrophy the fault of someone?

No. These are genetic diseases that are either passed on or developed spontaneously by one person because of a certain faulty gene. No one is to blame in either case.

Can muscular dystrophy occur later in life?

Yes. There is a mild form of DMD known as Becker muscular dystrophy that can occur in those between the ages of five and 25. This form normally progresses fairly slowly. Other forms can occur in late childhood or adulthood.

What muscles does muscular dystrophy affect?

It depends upon the type of muscular dystrophy. Any of the volunteer muscles may be impacted, but muscles near the spine and limbs are affected most frequently.

Is muscular dystrophy painful?

Pain is not a main muscular dystrophy symptom, although resulting muscle weakness can strain joints or cause poor posture, leading to some discomfort.

Does muscular dystrophy have a treatment?

There is no current treatment for the underlying cause or to halt its progression. However, there are numerous promising treatments currently undergoing testing in clinical trials. Some forms of steroids may be able to delay some symptoms for several years. Mobility can be improved with certain aids and the care of medical professionals.

Do those with muscular dystrophy suffer from intellectual impairments?

People with muscular dystrophy are no more likely to have intellectual disabilities than those in the general population. A minority of boys with DMD have some learning and behavioral problems. These can be managed with proper support.

Is fatigue common in muscular dystrophy?

Fatigue is often found in those with muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions. The cause is not completely known, but is believed to be related to stronger muscles bearing the burden of weaker ones, resulting in tiring more quickly than normal. Some forms of muscular dystrophy can lead to the weakening of the heart, causing fatigue.

Is the disease progressive?

The muscle weakening process occurs continuously, but there can be times where growth spurts seem to predominate, and the patients gains strength as a result.

Does muscular dystrophy affect eyesight, hearing, or speech?

Muscular dystrophy does not normally affect eyesight, although some forms of the disease can cause cataract damage or damage to the retina. Hearing is normally unaffected, while speech can be impaired in certain forms of the disease involving weakness of facial muscles.

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