Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of inherited diseases that cause muscle weakening and a loss of muscle tissue. The body replaces the lost muscle tissue with fat and connective tissue. The muscle weakness makes it hard or even impossible for your child to walk.
There are many forms of muscular dystrophy. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common type. It is also the most severe childhood form of the disease.
MD can affect the heart. Also, as the breathing muscles weaken, a child may start having lung problems, including pneumonia.
Currently, there is no cure for this disease. The life span for people with MD is usually shorter than normal.
MD is a genetic disorder. This means that it is caused by a problem with one or more genes. Genes are inside each cell of your body. They contain the information that tells your body how to develop and work. Changes in the genes can be passed from parents to children.
Children who have MD have a problem with a gene that makes a protein needed by their muscles. Without this protein, or the right form of the protein, their muscles don’t work right.
One or both parents may be a carrier of the defective gene and pass it on to their child. A carrier is a person who has the faulty gene but usually shows no symptoms of the disease.
Because of the way DMD is inherited, it affects mostly boys. Symptoms are rare in girls. However, girls can be carriers.
Symptoms start in early childhood, usually between the ages of 3 and 5 years. Symptoms may include:
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
Treatment is focused on managing the symptoms of muscular dystrophy with:
Medicine may include:
If it gets hard for your child to breathe, your child may use a machine that helps breathing, especially at night.
Many experimental therapies have not yet shown proven benefits. However, researchers are working hard to find better treatments and a cure for this disease.
You may need to make some changes in your child’s diet.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
You can get more information about MD from: