Updated 22 October 2013

10 muscular dystrophy facts

We bring you some quick facts on muscular dystrophy (MD).

How much do you know about muscular dystrophy (MD)? You won’t win any prizes by saying it has something to do with one’s muscles.

Here are some quick facts on this disease, which is genetically inherited, is degenerative and can result in death.

Treatment is limited to helping those who have the disease live with it.

Here are the facts:

•    There are eight known types of muscular dystrophy. (Becker/Duchenne, Limb-girdle, Facioscapulohumeral, Distal, Emery-Dreifuss, Fukuyama, Oculopharyngeal and Ophthalmoploegic MD). No-one expects you to remember this.
•    Duchenne MD, one of the most common forms of the disease, can be detected by means of genetic studies during pregnancy. Even though the disease may be identified, there is still no way to prevent it. Parents must make the difficult choice of deciding whether or not to abort the pregnancy. One in every 3 000 children are born with this condition.
•    Two common forms of MD (Duchenne and Becker) are caused by a genetically inherited deficiency of the muscle protein dystrophin. This condition mostly affects boys. One in every 1 200 people are either born with, or develop late-onset muscular dystrophy.
•    Initial symptoms include deformities, scoliosis (crooked spine), decreased muscle tone, intellectual retardation or a waddling action when walking.
•    It is diagnosed by means of a physical examination that notes all possible symptoms. Blood tests are also performed on potential carriers and their DNA is examined.
•    People diagnosed with MD are usually referred to neurologists, geneticists and physiotherapists for treatment.
•    Treatment includes a combination of physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

•     MD can be treated using surgical methods such as tendon release, where the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the ankle joint is severed. This is done to reduce the side effects of muscle shortening.
•    There is no known cure for MD, but modern treatments can prolong the lifespan of people diagnosed with this condition.
•    The average lifespan of a person diagnosed with Duchenne MD is roughly 20 years, however, people diagnosed with Becker MD are said to have a normal life expectancy.

(Sources: (André van Wyk,, September 2007)


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