Muscular Dystrophy

Caitlyn Daas M4L1A

What is muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is a hereditary condition, a group of genetic diseases, marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles. There is not a cure, but treatment may help.
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How is it Caused?

Certain genes are responsible for making the proteins that protect muscle fibers from damage. Muscular dystrophy (MD) occurs when one or more of these genes are defective. Many of these mutations are genetic, some can happen in the mother's egg or in the developing embryo, and are passed on to the next generation.


The main characteristic of MD is muscles weakness, specific symptoms start at various ages and in different muscle groups, depending on the type of MD.

Duchenne MD:

About 50% of all cases have this variety, it typically affects boys. Symptoms include:

  • Frequently falling
  • Difficulty lifting oneself
  • Difficulty running and jumping
  • Waddle-like walk
  • Walking on toes
  • Abnormally large calf muscles
  • Muscle pain/ stiffness
  • Learning disabilities

Becker MD:

Similar symptoms to the Duchenne variety, generally milder with a slower progression. Symptoms typically start in the teenage years, but may not occur until adulthood.


Currently, there is not a cure for muscular dystrophy, but treatment helps patients remain active as long as possible.


  • Corticosteroids: (ex. prednisone) Help improve the muscle's strength and fuction, as well as delay certain MD progression. Prolonged use of these may cause weight gain and weaken bones.
  • Heart medications: (ACE inhibitors or beta blockers) Only used if MD affects the heart.


  • Range-of-motion and stretching exercises: Keep joints as flexible as possible.
  • Exercise: Low-impact aerobic exercise helps maintain strength, mobility,and general health.
  • Braces: Keep muscles and tendons flexible, also slow the progression of contractures. They provide support for weakened muscles.
  • Mobility aids: Canes, walkers, and wheelchairs help maintain mobility/independence.
  • Breathing assistance: Machines may be used for MD caused sleep apnea, or, if needed, a ventilator to force air in and out of lungs.


Surgery can correct spinal curvature that makes breathing more difficult.

Relating to the Muscular System

Well, MD affects the muscles of the body, not just the voluntary muscles, but cardiac, respiratory, etc. Eventually, patients loose the ability to walk, breathe, or swallow.
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