A serious disease that affects roughly 1 in every 3,000-5,000 males between the ages of 5 and 24, muscular dystrophy can manifest itself in nine different forms. This slightly less common disease causes a loss of muscle mass and weakened muscles over time due to gene mutations which prevent the necessary proteins that form muscle tissue from being produced. Children of both genders are often the most affected demographic, though boys have been found to develop the disease much more frequently than girls.
MD is a disease that demands a great deal of attention in the medical field today, as there has yet to be a cure developed, and it can significantly lower an individual’s life expectancy depending on the type. The two most common are Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Becker muscular dystrophy, and the symptoms that come with both, as well as the seven other types, vary greatly. In order to best approach this disease, it’s important to understand these signs and symptoms.
The most obvious symptom of MD is the weakening and deterioration of muscles. In those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, other symptoms may show themselves very early on, typically beginning between the ages of 2 and 3. These can include falling frequently, difficulty walking or running, larger-than-normal calf muscles for children of that age group, and even learning disabilities. The difference between Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy is the rate at which symptoms begin to show. Patients suffering from Becker muscular dystrophy typically begin to show signs of the complication in their mid-teens or early 20’s.
This disease is typically caused by genetics, as it can easily be passed down from parent to child. However, it is not uncommon for a child to develop this disease despite neither of his or her parent being a carrier. Genes dictate the proteins made by your body’s cells, and a gene mutation can happen in just about any individual. Consult your doctor immediately if you or a loved one may be showing signs of muscular dystrophy in order to receive a proper diagnosis.
Treating this disease, seeing as there is no cure, can be taxing on both the patient suffering from it and his or her caretakers. Depending on the age and type of MD one may have, there are a variety of treatment options that can help make life much easier. The most commonly recommended remedy is physical therapy. The loss of muscle mass can be slowed by stretching and exercising regularly, which a trained physical therapist can help with greatly. Similarly, speech therapy and respiratory therapy may be prescribed for those with weaker facial muscles and difficulty breathing.
There are several forms of medication that can ease the symptoms of muscular dystrophy as well. Seeing as this disease is defined as a lower production of dystrophin, Eteplirsen may be given to promote the body’s output of this specific protein. MD can also lead to seizures, which anti-seizures medication is designed specifically to treat, and blood pressure medication can help those dealing with heart problems. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended should a patient be experiencing serious heart or respiratory problems.
While there may not be a cure today, researchers are looking into new ways to treat muscular dystrophy, and testing new drugs every day in an attempt to stop this debilitating disease. For now, the best course of action to take is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, exercise, and sleep comfortably every night. With modern technology at our disposal, the tools necessary to better those suffering from MD are plentiful, and the hope of one day curing this disease is stronger than ever.