Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy Treatment

Muscular dystrophy (also known as MD) is an umbrella term that describes a class of disorders characterized by the gradual weakening of muscles. Since muscular dystrophy is a genetically linked disorder, there is no cure at this time. However, there are medications, therapies and orthopedic devices that may help slow the degeneration and offer some relief to MD patients.

Physical Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy

Physical therapy can be helpful for those with muscular dystrophy. Physical therapy can help prevent a condition known as contractures, which occur when the body grows but the muscles don’t develop with the bones.

Physical therapy can help slow the development of contractures by preventing or repositioning joints and stopping a painful curvature of the spine. This can keep the body in a better condition and alleviate pain in the long term.

Physical therapy is also important because lack of exercise or activity can actually cause muscular dystrophy symptoms to worsen.

Other Therapies for Muscular Dystrophy

Since the respiratory muscles can also be affected by MD, respiratory therapy is often necessary for patients in order to help them breathe easily and with less pain. For some, ventilators may be necessary to help compensate for weakened muscles.

Orthopedic Treatments for Muscular Dystrophy

Orthopedic devices (called orthoses) can be fitted for muscular dystrophy patients to give them support in place of weakened muscles.

Orthopedic surgery can also be an option to help correct ongoing problems for MD patients. Surgery can be used to help correct muscle shortening.

Medication for Muscular Dystrophy

Since there are many different forms of muscular dystrophy, there are also different medications that may be appropriate for patients.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most severe and common childhood onset variety of MD, can be treated with cortisteroids.

Symptoms of myotonia, which is the extended contraction of a muscle and delayed relaxation, are common to myotonic muscular dystrophy. These symptoms can be treated with various medications, including quinine or phenytoin.

Medication to help prevent convulsions can also help prevent seizures and control muscle overactivity.

In cases of macular dystrophy, antibiotics and other treatment may also be necessary to treat corneal erosion, which is a common symptom.

Gene Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy

While there is no known cure for muscular dystrophy, the scientific community is actively researching possible treatments. One field of study that has attracted much research and testing is the field of gene therapy. Scientists are trying to determine how to introduce a functioning gene in place of the mutated genes that cause the disorder.

Stem cell research is also a promising area for muscular dystrophy treatments. Tests have been performed on mice with some successful “reprogramming” of body cells, though researchers caution that there is still a long way to go before human applications might be developed. Nonetheless, this research has stoked a good deal of optimism that significant developments in the treatment of muscular dystrophy are on the horizon.

Genetic Counseling

Families that have a history of muscular dystrophy should absolutely consider getting detailed genetic counseling to assess the extent of any genetic mutations and the likelihood of passing this on to children. Prenatal testing can also be done to give parents the full opportunity to assess their options and prepare should the genes have been passed on to a fetus.

Muscular Dystrophy Research

While there is still no cure for muscular dystrophy, organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, along with many other researchers and organizations, are constantly doing research on this condition.

These organizations also continually provide muscular dystrophy statistics on frequency of the disease, survival rate and more.

Resources

Health Scout Network (2007). Muscular Dystrophy. Retrieved January 15, 2008, from the Health Scout Web site: http://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/451/main.html.

Medical News Today (2007). Stem cell treatment for muscular dystrophy. Retrieved January 10, 2008, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/3935.php.