Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Muscular dystrophy is a group of inherited diseases that damage and weaken your muscles over time. This damage and weakness is due to the lack of a protein called dystrophin, which is necessary for normal muscle function. The absence of this protein can cause problems with walking, swallowing, and muscle coordination.
How does it affect an individual or what are its effects?
The effects of muscular dystrophy largely depend on the type of muscular dystrophy. As a general rule, it significantly affects the functioning of the muscles which cause a large set of problems ranging from significant inability of limbs to perform movements to heart issues.
Types of Muscular Dystrophy:
Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of muscular dystrophy. It gradually makes the body's muscles weaker.
Becker muscular dystrophy, which causes less severe symptoms than Duchenne MD.
Myotonic dystrophy, also known as Steinert's disease, is the most common adult form of MD, although half of all cases are diagnosed in people under 20 years old. The main symptoms include muscle weakness, myotonia (in which the muscles have trouble relaxing once they contract), and muscle wasting (when the muscles shrink over time).
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy affects boys and girls equally. Symptoms usually start when kids are between 8 and 15 years old. This form progresses slowly, affecting the pelvic, shoulder, and back muscles. The severity of muscle weakness varies — some kids have only mild weakness while others develop severe disabilities and as adults need to use a wheelchair.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, which can affect both boys and girls. The symptoms usually first appear during the teen years. Muscle weakness first develops in the face, making it difficult for a child to close the eyes, whistle, or puff out the cheeks. The shoulder and back muscles gradually become weak, and kids have trouble lifting objects or raising their hands overhead. Over time, the legs and pelvic muscles also may lose strength.
Distal muscular dystrophy, which affects the muscles of the arms, legs, hands, and feet. It usually comes on later in life, between ages 40 and 60.
Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, which starts in a person's 40s or 50s. It causes weakness in the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders, and droopy eyelids (ptosis), followed by difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, which affects mainly boys, usually starting around age 10. People with this form often have heart problems along with muscle weakness.
For most types of muscular dystrophy, symptoms start to show up in childhood or teenage years. Some common symptoms include:
Frequent muscle cramps
Trouble getting up, climbing stairs, running, or jumping
Having weak muscles from a young age
Trouble in breathing, swallowing
Muscular dystrophy occurs when certain genes, which are involved in making proteins that protect muscle fibres, are defective.
Each form of muscular dystrophy is caused by a genetic mutation particular to that type of the disease. Most of these mutations are inherited.
There are some risk factors involved too. Since most of these mutations are inherited, people with a family history of muscular dystrophy are at higher risk of developing the disease or passing it on to their children.
How to help someone dealing with muscular dystrophy?
Get familiar with the disability. Keep a good knowledge about what it is, how it is affecting the individual, and what kind of treatments are being administered and available.
If you are someone who is in close circles of the individual, keep a lookout for newer symptoms. Muscular Dystrophy primarily involves muscle weakness, but other symptoms and complications can arise. The severity of these may change over time so it is imperative to stay attentive to them
Support can be provided at home by various means such as - installation of ramps for easier access with the wheelchair, or by placing all necessary items where the individual can reach them with ease, and so on.
Explaining physical disabilities to children
Giving children accurate information is necessary to clear misconceptions and help them treat others with kindness and respect. This is a simplified summary that can be used with children.
Some children are born with a condition that affects their ability to move, walk, sit, or run. This condition is called cerebral palsy. And sometimes an illness or an accident can cause a person to lose the ability to use their legs. They may use a wheelchair to move around. Children who use a wheelchair or have cerebral palsy can think, learn, communicate, and study just like you. They only need help in moving from place to place.