Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy refers to an inherited condition in which a person has particularly weak muscle tissue, which can cause his muscles to become easily damaged. Although many medical experts categorize muscular dystrophy as a type of myopathy, it is, in fact, a separate condition. However, because MD is a degenerative muscle condition, many still classify it as a type of myopathy.

While all types of muscular dystrophy are caused by some type of genetic defect, different types of genetic defects can result in distinct forms of MD. In general, the most prevalent types of muscular dystrophy are those that result from genetic abnormalities that cause a lack of dystrophin, a type of protein responsible for strengthening muscles.

Various types of muscular dystrophy include:

  • Becker MD, which affects children and teens, causes muscle weakness and deterioration, especially in the lower body. Becker MD patients typically don’t survive past middle age.
  • Congenital MD starts affecting the muscles and joints from birth. These patients usually have shortened lives.
  • Duchenne MD, similar to Becker MD, weakens and destroys children’s and adolescents’ muscles. These patients rarely live past their 20s.
  • Limb-girdle MD sets in during early to mid-adulthood, causing patients to be especially weak in their shoulders and pelvic regions.
  • Myotonic MD, which also develops during early to mid-adulthood, weakens all of the body’s muscles while also preventing patients from being able to relax muscles after contractions.

In this section, we will take a look at the symptoms of and treatments for different types of muscular dystrophy. Our articles include information on the newest treatment options, as well as the pros and cons of various MD treatments.

Symptoms of Dystrophies

Common symptoms that characterize all types of muscular dystrophy can include any combination of the following:

  • an inability to relax your muscles
  • atrophy, a type of muscular deterioration
  • lack of coordination
  • loss of mobility
  • muscle spasms
  • muscle weakness
  • pain
  • stiff joints.

Keep in mind, however, that the precise symptoms you experience will depend on:

  • age
  • the severity of your condition
  • type of muscular dystrophy
  • whether or not you suffer from other medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, HIV, etc.).

If you start experiencing any of the above symptoms for an extended period of time, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. To diagnosis MD, doctors will perform:

  • an electromyography, which measures your muscles’ electrical impulses
  • blood tests
  • muscle biopsies, tests in which experts examine small pieces of your muscles that have been extracted from your body
  • ultrasonography tests, which use sound waves to create images of your muscles.

If you have a family history of MD, be sure talk to your doctor and be aware of the symptoms of muscular dystrophy.

Muscular Dystrophy Treatment

Regardless of the type of muscular dystrophy you have, there is currently no cure for this disease. While researchers continue to search for MD cures, the medical community designs individualized treatment plans for patients to help them prevent the disease from worsening so they can live comfortably.

Although the exact course of treatment for a patient will revolve around the particular type of muscular dystrophy he has, many treatment regimens include some combination of the following:

  • Going to physical therapy: As MD ravages the body, it shortens patients’ tendons and causes muscles to stiffen and get weaker. Physical therapy teaches muscular dystrophy patients stretches and exercises that promote greater flexibility and strength.
  • Taking medications: Depending on whether MD causes more stiffness or more inflammation, doctors will prescribe some combination of anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory medications. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you are currently taking to help him choose the right MD medications for you.
  • Wearing and/or using supportive gear: Wearing braces, along with using canes and walkers, can help MD patients take some stress off their bodies and prevent them from unnecessarily damaging their muscles. Similarly, supportive devices are extremely beneficial to those with late-stage MD, as these devices can improve their mobility even as their bodies are giving out.

Before starting any course of treatment, see your doctor to make sure you are practicing the proper dystrophy treatment.

Resources

University of Maryland Medicine (May 14, 2003). Types of Muscular Dystrophy and Neuromuscular Diseases. Retrieved January 3, 2008, from the University of Maryland Medicine Web site: http://www.umm.edu/nervous/musctype.htm.