Muscular Dystrophy (MD)

There’s no cure for MD, but there is a lot we can work on to overcome it. We’ll do all we can to alleviate the symptoms, learn to live with the disease and reclaim a vibrant, happy life.

No cure doesn’t mean no hope.

Understanding the Disease

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a broad term that describes a genetic, or inherited, disorder of the muscles. It causes muscles in the body to become very weak, eventually break down and be replaced with fatty deposits. There are more than thirty specific types of muscular dystrophy, and the two most common forms are Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophy – both of which seldom affect girls.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for any type of muscular dystrophy. But there’s still a lot we can work on together to overcome it. Together with INTEGRIS physicians, neuroscientists and experts, we’ll do all we can to alleviate the symptoms, learn to live with the disease and reclaim a vibrant, happy life.

Click here to learn about the General Neuromuscular Support Group.

Understanding Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is usually diagnosed in children between 3 and 6 years of age. Early signs of the illness include a delay in walking, trouble rising from a sitting or lying position, and frequent falling. Weak shoulder and pelvic muscles are also early symptoms. The symptoms of muscular dystrophy may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your child's doctor for a diagnosis. These are the most common symptoms:

  • Clumsy movement
  • Trouble climbing stairs
  • Frequent trips and falls
  • Difficulty jumping or hopping normally
  • Tip toe walking
  • Leg pain
  • Facial weakness
  • Inability to close eyes or whistle
  • Shoulder and arm weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble getting up from a seated position on the floor
  • Large calves

The diagnosis of muscular dystrophy is made with a physical exam and certain tests. During the exam, your child's doctor will take a complete prenatal and birth history of your child and ask if other family members are known to have muscular dystrophy. Tests for muscular dystrophy may include:

  • Blood tests: These include genetic blood tests.
  • Muscle biopsy: The primary test used to confirm diagnosis. A small sample of muscle tissue is taken and examined under a microscope.
  • Electromyogram (EMG): A test to check if the muscle weakness is a result of destruction of muscle tissue rather than nerve damage.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. To date, there is no known treatment, medicine, or surgery that will cure muscular dystrophy, or stop the muscles from weakening. The goal of treatment is to prevent deformity and allow the child to function as independently as possible.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Positioning aids used to help your child sit, lie or stand
  • Braces and splints used to prevent deformity, promote support or provide protection
  • Medications (research trials may help advance treatment)
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Psychological counseling

In some cases, surgery may be considered to manage the following conditions:

  • Scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the back bones) associated with muscular dystrophy
  • Maintaining your child's ability to sit or stand

Available Near You

INTEGRIS MDA Neuromuscular Center

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