Symptoms Of Muscular Dystrophy: Types, Causes And Treatment

Muscular dystrophy is not a particular disease but an umbrella term used for group of muscle disorders. The common point in each disorder is damage and progressive irreversible destruction of muscle. The disorder mainly affects skeletal muscles in the body. The voluntary muscles of leg, hands, arm, face, etc shrink and become weak over a period of time.

Voluntary muscles control movement of body. Hence patient suffering from muscular dystrophy will become physically disabled with progression of the disorder.

Muscular dystrophy is a hereditary disease and runs in family. Till date there are more than 30 different types of muscular dystrophies that have been identified. The damage and weakness in muscles is caused due to deficiency or lack of a particular protein called dystrophin in muscles. Dystrophin is necessary for normal functioning of the muscle. Patients suffering from muscular dystrophy over a period of time find difficulty in walking, swallowing, and performing their basic function.

There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Treatment is aimed to slow down progression of disease and control the symptoms with physical therapy, exercise, eating healthy food, orthopedic instruments, speech and occupational therapy.

Types And Symptoms Of Muscular Dystrophy

There are about 30 different types of muscular dystrophies. They are characterized by progressive loss of muscle function in accordance with age, severity and group of muscle. The important muscular dystrophies are:

  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy: It is most common and severe of all muscular dystrophies. This disorder affects only male children.
  • Becker muscular dystrophy: The disorder only occurs in boys as genetic defect lies in X chromosome. The symptoms are similar to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but its severity is less. The symptoms develop after the age of 5 years. Patient does not need wheelchair till he is in mid 30’s.
  • Congenital muscular dystrophy: Weakness of muscle is present since birth. The infant finds difficulty in suckling. Other motor functions are also hampered.
  • Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy: In this type, the muscles of face, upper arm and shoulder get affected. Hence patient finds difficulty in swallowing, speaking, deformity in shoulder structure.
  • Limb girdle muscular dystrophy: The weakness occurs in muscles of hips and shoulder. Hence patient finds difficulty to get out of chair after sitting, climbing staircase, or carry heavy items with his hands. Both males and females may become incapacitated by the age of 20 in this muscular disorder.
  • Ocular muscular dystrophy: It affects the muscles of eyes. The onset occurs in 20’s and 30’s. It causes paralysis of eye muscles. Progression is slow. If the throat muscles are involved, trouble swallowing together with drooping eyelids is major problem.
  • Emery Dreifuss dystrophy: It begins in childhood and affects boys more than girls. Patient has heart problem, breathing problem, weakness in muscles of leg and arm. There is shortening of spine and neck muscles. Patients usually die in their middle age due to heart and lung problem.

Besides particular symptoms following are common sign and symptoms that are present in all forms of muscle dystrophies:

  • Gradual inability to walk.
  • Loss of balance because of muscle weakness.
  • Gait is waddling.
  • Breathlessness and respiratory distress.
  • Frequent falling.
  • Contracture of joints.
  • Structural abnormality of spine.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Poor motor skill.
  • Joint stiffness and pain in joints.
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections.

What Causes Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is an inherited disease. It is caused by genetic defect and is passed on from parents to the child. However, it is not always the case. Sometimes there may be spontaneous mutation which may not have any inherited cause. Muscular dystrophy occurs mainly in boys as compared to girls. In other cases specific gene mutation that is inherited from parents determines the type of muscular dystrophy.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Muscular Dystrophy

Following tests will help to diagnose muscular dystrophy; patient’s medical history, family history, clinical examination. Certain tests will further help to confirm the diagnosis. Blood examination for certain enzymes that are released after destruction of muscles, electromyelography which detects the activity of muscle, and lastly muscle biopsy.

Once the diagnosis of muscular dystrophy is confirmed, treatment measures may be initiated. There is no permanent cure for muscular dystrophy. Hence treatment is aimed at managing symptoms and slowing down progression of disease. Treatment includes:

  • Bronchodilators
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech and occupational therapy.
  • Use of steroids to reduce pain and weakness of muscles.
  • Beta-blocker medicines and diuretics in case if heart muscles are affected.
  • Corrective surgeries to prevent and treat joint contractures.
  • Use of wheelchair and other orthopedic instruments if the patient is not able to walk.
  • Eating healthy food that does is not have inflammatory impact on the body.
  • Reducing exposure to environmental toxin.
  • Use of supplements such as green tea extract for its anti-inflammatory effect and energy production.

Most of the treatment measures are aimed to improve the quality of life of the patient.