Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms

Muscular Dystrophy Explained

Muscular dystrophy (also known as MD) is not one disease or disorder, but rather an umbrella term that describes any number of hereditary disorders that attack muscle tissue. These different disorders vary in severity, time of onset, and which muscles are affected in what order. Muscular dystrophy disorders are characterized by the progressive weakening of the affected muscles and muscle systems.

There are nine set disorders classified as muscular dystrophy (though as many as 100 other disorders also fall under the MD classification). The nine defined MD disorders are listed here:

  • Becker’s muscular dystrophy is similar to Duchenne but less severe.
  • Congenital muscular dystrophy begins affecting the body from birth.
  • Distal muscular dystrophy has a late onset and is not considered life threatening.
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most severe form of muscular dystrophy, and unfortunately the most common childhood-onset MD. Boys who have Duchenne’s are unlikely to live into their 20s.
  • Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy affects skeletal and heart muscles.
  • Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy tends to affect facial and upper body muscles first.
  • Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy generally manifest in teenage or adult years.
  • Myotonic muscular dystrophy is the most common adult-onset MD.
  • Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy tends to begin later in life, after age 40.

Causes of Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a hereditary disorder that is passed genetically in the form of a mutated gene. While both males and females can inherit muscular dystrophy, some forms (such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy) are carried on the X chromosome, meaning only boys, with their XX genetic configuration, can inherit those forms.

Risk Factors for Muscular Dystrophy

Those who have a family history of muscular dystrophy, or a parent with a mutated gene, are at higher risk of inheriting muscular dystrophy disorders. Both children and adults can experience the onset of muscular dystrophy, though the forms that begin in childhood tend to be more severe.

Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms

Since the different sub-conditions that fall under the title “muscular dystrophy” can affect different muscles, symptoms do not follow a predictable progression. Because the disorders affect attack muscles, most initial symptoms will manifest as changes to a muscle or loss of usual muscle control and/or dexterity.

Muscular Dystrophy: More Condition Symptoms

Other symptoms of muscular dystrophy include:

  • difficulty navigating stairs, either up or down
  • enlarged muscles
  • frequent falling down
  • gait issues
  • progressive muscle weakening
  • swayback.

Diagnosing Muscular Dystrophy

It is relatively easy to diagnose muscular dystrophy with either a blood test or muscle biopsy. This is usually done after some of the initial symptoms have begun to manifest.

Curing Muscular Dystrophy

There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. The long-term prognosis for those with muscular dystrophy depends in large part on what form of the disorder a person has. For some, muscular dystrophy can result in a fast degeneration that leads to a shortened life-span. For others, symptoms are manageable and not life-threatening.

If muscular dystrophy runs in your family or you think you or someone you know may have the above symptoms, be sure to speak with a doctor for genetic profiling or diagnosis.

Resources (2007). Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy. Retrieved January 15, 2008, from the Cure Research Web site:

Health Scout Network (2007). Muscular Dystrophy. Retrieved January 15, 2008, from the Health Scout Web site: