What are the treatments, causes, effects, and symptoms of muscular dystrophy?

Expert Answers
lizedwards eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that is characterized by the progressive weakening and atrophy of the muscles. 

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease, meaning that a mutation in a person's DNA is the source of the disease. The genes that are affected are those that are involved in protein synthesis. Those proteins under normal circumstances protect muscle fibers from damage. People with muscular dystrophy do not have those proteins. Without these proteins, muscles begin to waste away. These genetic mutations behind muscular dystrophy can be inherited from the person's parents, or they may occur spontaneously in the ovum or the developing embryo.
The lack of the muscle-protecting proteins results in a progressive loss of muscle mass, strength, or both. There are different kinds of muscular dystrophy, each with its own specific set of symptoms. Most people who suffer from muscular dystrophy will experience muscle weakness and rigidity, scoliosis, frequent falls, difficulty walking normally, and muscle cramps.
Muscular dystrophy manifests differently in every affected person. In some people, it develops slowly, while in others, it becomes worse more quickly. The effects of muscular dystrophy are a general loss of muscle, which reverberates across many areas of life. Often, muscular dystrophy will negatively affect a person's ability to have a normal life, including effects on recreation, getting around, and performing basic self-care routines. 
There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy. The treatments available to people with muscular dystrophy serve only to make it easier to live with the disease. Various kinds of therapy, such as physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy, and drug therapy can help make the person more comfortable. In some cases, surgery can also help correct complications from the muscle loss and make life easier for the person.
wayne10 | Student

Muscular dystrophy refers to a condition that causes the gradual weakening of the musculoskeletal system and muscle loss. The condition usually gets worse over time. 


Treatment reduces the problem in both the spine and joints to ensure mobility. 

  • Prednisone, a corticosteroid, improves muscle strength and delays muscle dystrophy progression
  • Angiotensin, a heart medication, normally used if the heart is damaged by muscle dystrophy
  • Therapy and assistive devices improve the length of life
  • Corrective Surgery, mostly used to correct spinal curvatures known as scoliosis


  • Genetic mutations, mostly inherited


  • Deterioration of body muscles
  • General Muscle weakness
  • Cardiomyopathy 

Symptoms: Muscle weakening is the main symptom. The other specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of muscle dystrophy. They include

  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Muscle pain
  • Waddling gait
  • Enlarged calf muscles
  • Frequent falls
  • Lying difficulties
  • Difficulty in raising arms
  • Trouble jumping and running
  • Walking on toes
  • Poor balance


diverswim | Student

Muscular Dystrophy caused by a genetic mutation. They are sometimes inheritated.


Difficulty with running and jumping, along with stiffness and muscle discomfort.


  • Damage the heart
  • Muscle deterioration


Therapy and Medication

bill-education | Student

Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of genetically inherited muscle disorders which are progressive in nature. This group of muscle disorders is characterised by muscle weakness and the distinguishing factor between one type of muscular dystrophy and the other is the selective distribution of the muscle weakness.


As mentioned above, muscle dystrophy is a genetically inherited disorder and the most common form of muscle dystrophy is called Duchenne dystrophy. It is an x- chromosome linked disorder caused by a gene mutation. This mutation leads to the absence of a protein found in muscle cell membrane called dystrophin. The absence of dystrophin in the muscles leads to a progressive weakness in the group of muscles.

Symptoms and manifestation:

This medical condition characteristically begins to manifest early, usually affecting boys within their first decade of life. The condition is marked by frequent falls, difficulty in standing, a waddling gait and an inability to climb the stairs among other symptoms.

The muscle weakness is progressive, with destruction of muscle fibres and their replacement with connective tissue. It starts from the lower parts of the body such as the pelvic girdle and gradually spreads up to the shoulder girdle. Most patients are confined to the wheel chair by the time they are ten.


Once respiratory muscles become affected, complications of the respiratory system set in and many of the patients die by the time they are twenty. No specific treatment exists, although steroids are know to bring about clinical improvement when they are given long term although this does not lead to a cure.

Other forms of muscle dystrophy include the less severe form of muscle dystrophy called Becker muscular dystrophy. In this form of dystrophy, the protein dystrophin is only reduced in quantity in the muscles and the muscle weakness is less severe. Typically, affected patients are able to move around and life expectancy is a little longer, usually up to about age forty.  


tcoval | Student


There are specific genes that are involved in making protein that protect the muscle fibers from damage. Muscular Dystrophy is caused by genetic mutation. These mutations are usually inherited.


Difficulty with running and jumping, along with stiffness and muscle discomfort, larger calf muscles, difficulty transitioning from laying down to sitting up, and learning disabilities/developmental delay.


  • Weakened respiratory muscles
  • Overall weakness in muscles
  • Damage the heart
  • Muscle deterioration


  • Medications
    - Corticosteroids, and medications for the heart (beta blockers)
  • Therapy
    - Stretching exercises to help with range of motion, breathing assistance (i.e. needing oxygen at night), braces for stability and support, and devices to help with mobility (walker, cane, etc.)