Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of muscle diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system and hamper locomotion. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue.
In the 1860s, descriptions of boys who grew progressively weaker, lost the ability to walk, and died at an early age became more prominent in medical journals. In the following decade, French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne gave a comprehensive account of thirteen boys with the most common and severe form of the disease, which now carries his name—Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
It soon became evident that the disease had more than one form. These diseases predominately affect males, although females may be carriers of the disease gene. Most types of MD are multi-system disorders with manifestations in body systems including the heart, gastrointestinal system, nervous system, endocrine glands, eyes and brain.
Apart from the nine major types of muscular dystrophy, several MD-like conditions have also been identified. A third of patients who are severely affected with DMD may have cognitive impairment, behavioral, vision and speech problems.
Signs and symptoms
- Progressive muscular wasting
- Poor balance
- Drooping eyelids
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine and the back)
- Inability to walk
- Frequent falls
- Waddling gait
- Calf deformation
- Limited range of movement
- Respiratory difficulty
- Joint contractures
There is no known cure for muscular dystrophy, although significant headway is being made with antisense oligonucleotides. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthotic intervention (e.g., ankle-foot orthosis), speech therapy and orthopedic instruments (e.g., wheelchairs and standing frames) may be helpful. Inactivity (such as bed rest, sitting for long periods) and bodybuilding efforts to increase myofibrillar hypertrophy can worsen the disease.
There is no specific treatment for any of the forms of muscular dystrophy. Physiotherapy, aerobic exercise, low intensity anabolic steroids, prednisone supplements may help to prevent contractures and maintain muscle tone. Orthoses (orthopedic appliances used for support) and corrective orthopedic surgery may be needed to improve the quality of life in some cases. The cardiac problems that occur with Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and myotonic muscular dystrophy may require a pacemaker. The myotonia (delayed relaxation of a muscle after a strong contraction) occurring in myotonic muscular dystrophy may be treated with medications such as quinine, phenytoin, or mexiletine, but no actual long term treatment has been found.
Occupational therapy assists the individual with MD in engaging in his/her activities of daily living (self-feeding, self-care activities, etc.) and leisure activities at the most independent level possible. This may be achieved with use of adaptive equipment or the use of energy conservation techniques. Occupational therapy may implement changes to a person’s environment, both at home or work, to increase the individual’s function and accessibility. Occupational therapists also address psychosocial changes and cognitive decline which may accompany MD, as well as provide support and education about the disease to the family and individual.
High dietary intake of lean meat, sea food, pulses, milk, egg, olive oil, leafy vegetables, bell pepper, fiber, wheat, antioxidants, fruits like blueberry, cherry etc is advised. Decreased intake of carbohydrates, fats, dairy foods such as butter and milk, and caffeinated and alcoholic beverages is advised.
Diagnosis, neurology, GI-nutrition, respiratory care, cardiac care, orthopedics, psychosocial, rehabilitation, and oral care form the integral part of disease management, all through the patient’s life span.
The prognosis for people with muscular dystrophy varies according to the type and progression of the disorder. Some cases may be mild and progress very slowly over a normal lifespan, while others produce severe muscle weakness, functional disability, and loss of the ability to walk. Some children with muscular dystrophy die in infancy while others live into adulthood with only moderate disability. The muscles affected vary, but can be around the pelvis, shoulder, face or elsewhere. Muscular dystrophy can affect adults, but the more severe forms tend to occur in early childhood.