Muscular Dystrophy: Symptoms and Treatments Explained

Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic disorders that cause progressive muscle wasting and weakness. It affects both children and adults and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. While there is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy, there are treatments available to manage symptoms and improve mobility.

Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms

The symptoms of muscular dystrophy can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Frequent falls
  • Delayed motor skills development in children
  • Progressive muscle wasting
  • Difficulty with breathing and swallowing

Muscular Dystrophy Causes

Muscular dystrophy is caused by genetic mutations that affect the production of proteins needed for healthy muscle function. In some cases, the mutations are inherited from a parent, while in others, they occur spontaneously. There are several types of muscular dystrophy, each caused by a different genetic mutation.


Muscular dystrophy can lead to several complications, including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Scoliosis
  • Heart problems
  • Reduced mobility and independence

Treatment for muscular dystrophy typically involves a team of healthcare professionals, including a neurologist, physical therapist, and respiratory therapist. Treatment options may include medications, physical therapy, mobility aids, and surgery. It is important for individuals with muscular dystrophy to work closely with their healthcare team to manage symptoms and maintain their quality of life.

Diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that affects the muscles. It is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, muscle biopsy, and genetic testing.

Physical Examination

During a physical examination, the doctor will look for signs of muscle weakness and wasting. They may also check for difficulty walking, standing, or getting up from a seated position. The doctor may also ask about family history and any other symptoms the patient may be experiencing.

Muscle Biopsy

A muscle biopsy involves removing a small sample of muscle tissue for examination under a microscope. This can help to identify any abnormalities in the muscle fibers that may be associated with muscular dystrophy. The procedure is usually done under local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing involves analyzing a patient’s DNA to identify any mutations that may be associated with muscular dystrophy. This can be done through a blood sample or a cheek swab. Genetic testing can help to confirm a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and identify the specific type of muscular dystrophy a patient has.

Overall, the diagnosis of muscular dystrophy requires a combination of physical examination, muscle biopsy, and genetic testing. Early diagnosis is important for managing symptoms and developing a treatment plan.

Muscular Dystrophy Treatment

Muscular dystrophy is a chronic condition that has no cure. However, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected.


There are several medications that can help slow down the progression of muscular dystrophy and manage the symptoms. Some of the commonly used medications include:

  • Corticosteroids: These medications help to reduce inflammation and slow down the progression of the disease. They can also help to improve muscle strength and delay the onset of disability.
  • Immunosuppressants: These medications are used to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. They can help to slow down the progression of the disease and prevent further muscle damage.
  • Heart medications: Some people with muscular dystrophy may develop heart problems. Medications such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers can help to manage these symptoms and prevent further damage to the heart.


Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and mobility. These therapies can also help to prevent muscle contractures and improve respiratory function. Some people with muscular dystrophy may also benefit from speech therapy and nutritional counseling.

Surgical and Other Procedures

In some cases, surgical and other procedures may be necessary to manage the symptoms of muscular dystrophy. These may include:

  • Spinal fusion surgery: This surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine and prevent further damage.
  • Ventilation support: Some people with muscular dystrophy may develop respiratory problems and require ventilation support.
  • Cardiac procedures: People with muscular dystrophy may require cardiac procedures such as pacemaker implantation or heart valve replacement.

It is important to note that the treatment plan for muscular dystrophy will vary depending on the type and severity of the disease. A healthcare provider can help to develop a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to the individual needs of the patient.