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Muscular Dystrophy


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2021| Content last modified Apr 2021
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What is muscular dystrophy?

Dystrophy means wasted away. Muscular dystrophies are a group of disorders passed down from a parent (inherited) in which muscles waste away.

  • People with muscular dystrophy inherited abnormal genes that control muscle development and function

  • The various types of muscular dystrophy affect different muscles

  • Affected muscles are weak

  • Sometimes the heart muscle or the muscles that control breathing are weak, which can be dangerous

  • Muscular dystrophy can't be cured, but physical therapy may help relieve symptoms

Types of muscular dystrophy include:

There are other muscle disorders that can cause weakness, including:

What causes muscular dystrophies?

Muscular dystrophies are caused by abnormal genes that are passed down from a parent. These abnormal genes affect the way muscles work.

What are the symptoms of muscular dystrophies?

Some types of muscular dystrophy cause symptoms starting in childhood. Other types cause symptoms that start later, in the teen years or adulthood.

Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Paralysis (not being able to move part or all of your body)

  • Difficulty raising the arms

  • In children, a delay in learning to walk or difficulty running, jumping, or climbing stairs

How can doctors tell if I have muscular dystrophies?

Doctors suspect muscular dystrophies from your symptoms and family history. To know for sure, they'll do:

  • Blood tests

  • Muscle biopsy (doctors take a small piece of muscle to look at under a microscope)

How do doctors treat muscular dystrophies?

There is no cure. Doctors treat muscular dystrophies with:

  • Physical therapy

  • Ankle or leg braces

  • Medicine

Where can I get more information about muscular dystrophies?

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