Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a genetic disorder that weakens the muscles that help
the body move. People with MD have incorrect or missing information in their
genes, which prevents them from making the proteins they need for healthy
muscles. Because MD is genetic, people are born with the problem — it's not
contagious and you can't catch it from someone who has it.
MD weakens muscles over time, so children, teens, and adults who have the
disease can gradually lose the ability to do the things most people take for
granted, like walking or sitting up. Someone with MD might start having muscle
problems as a baby or their symptoms might start later. Some people even develop
MD as adults.
Duchenne MD is the most common form of MD and primarily
affects boys. It is caused by the absence of dystrophin, a
protein involved in maintaining the integrity of muscle. Onset
is between 3 and 5 years and the disorder progresses rapidly.
Most boys are unable to walk by age 12, and later need a
respirator to breathe. Girls in these families have a 50 percent
chance of inheriting and passing the defective gene to their
children. Boys with
Becker MD (very similar to but less severe than
Duchenne MD) have faulty or not enough dystrophin.
Facioscapulohumeral MD usually begins in the teenage
years. It causes progressive weakness in muscles of the face,
arms, legs, and around the shoulders and chest. It progresses
slowly and can vary in symptoms from mild to disabling.
Myotonic MD is the disorder's most common adult form
and is typified by prolonged muscle spasms, cataracts, cardiac
abnormalities, and endocrine disturbances. Individuals with
myotonic MD have long, thin faces, drooping eyelids, and a
OTHER TYPES OF MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY
The life expectancy for many of these forms of muscular
dystrophy depends on the degree to which a person's muscles are
weakened as well as how much the heart and lungs are affected.
- Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) typically
starts causing symptoms in late childhood to early teens and
sometimes as late as age 25. EDMD is another form of
muscular dystrophy that affects mostly boys. It involves
muscles in the shoulders, upper arms, and shins, and it
often causes joint problems (joints can become tighter in
people with EDMD). The heart muscle may also be affected.
- Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) affects boys and
girls equally, weakening muscles in the shoulders and upper
arms and around the hips and thighs. LGMD can begin as early
as childhood or as late as mid-adulthood, and it often
progresses slowly. Over time, a wheelchair might be
necessary to get around. There are many different types of
LGMD, each with its own specific features.
- Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) can affect
both guys and girls, and it usually begins during the teens
or early adulthood. FSHD affects muscles in the face and
shoulders and sometimes causes weakness in the lower legs.
People with this type of MD might have trouble raising their
arms, whistling, or tightly closing their eyes. How much a
person with this form of muscular dystrophy is affected by
the condition varies from person to person. It can be quite
mild in some people.
- Myotonic dystrophy (MMD) is a form of muscular dystrophy
in which the muscles have difficulty relaxing. In teens, it
can cause a number of problems, including muscle weakness
and wasting (where the muscles shrink over time), cataracts,
and heart problems.
- Congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD) is the term for all
types of MD that show signs in babies and young children,
although the MD isn't always diagnosed right away. Like
other forms of MD, CMD involves muscle weakness and poor
muscle tone. Occurring in both girls and boys, it can have
different symptoms. It varies in how severely it affects
people and how quickly or slowly it worsens. In rare cases,
CMD can cause learning disabilities or mental retardation.
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