What's the treatment for muscular dystrophy?
There are no cures for any of the muscular dystrophies and few drugs that have any effect. Treatment of muscular dystrophy is mainly directed at preventing the complications of weakness, including decreased mobility and dexterity, contractures, scoliosis, heart defects, and respiratory weaknesses. Treatment is centered on physical and occupational therapy. However,
surgery may be necessary to correct severe contractures, compensate for shoulder weakness, lift eyelids that are affected by OPMD, correct scoliosis, and to keep the airways open in cases of sleep apnea.
Physical therapy may help people with this disorder to maintain muscle strength and function. Orthopedic appliances such as braces and wheelchairs can improve mobility and self-care abilities. In some cases, surgery on the spine or lower extremities may help improve function and slow deterioration. Physical therapy, in particular regular stretching, is used to maintain the range of motion of affected muscles and to prevent or delay contractures. Braces are used as well, especially on the ankles and feet to prevent equinus. Full-leg braces may be used in DMD to prolong the period of independent walking. Strengthening other muscle groups to compensate for weakness may be possible if the affected muscles are few and isolated, as in the earlier stages of the milder muscular dystrophies. Regular, nonstrenuous exercise helps maintain general good health. Strenuous exercise is usually not recommended, since it may damage muscles further.
Treatments vary according to which type of dystrophy is diagnosed. The effects of MD, particularly in DMD and BMD, can be minimized by maintaining the body to be as flexible and mobile as possible.
Prednisone, a powerful steroid drug, is being often used as a way to temporarily relieve the muscle weakness in Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. Also under investigation is gene therapy that would enable muscles to produce dystrophin and other gene defects. Powerful medications that suppress the immune system have been reported to help some patients, but their use is controversial and somewhat risky. Other experimental treatments are being developed, including gene therapy, in which abnormal muscular dystrophy genes are replaced with healthy ones, and myoblast-transfer therapy, in which muscle cells from a healthy relative are injected into the muscles of an affected child.
People who develop weakness of the diaphragm or other ventilatory muscles may require a mechanical ventilator to continue breathing deeply enough. Air may be administered through a nasal mask or mouthpiece, or through a tracheostomy tube, which is inserted through a surgical incision through the neck and into the windpipe. Most people with muscular dystrophy do not need a tracheostomy, although some may prefer it to continual use of a mask or mouthpiece. Supplemental oxygen is not needed. Good hygiene of the lungs is critical for health and longterm survival of a person with weakened ventilatory muscles. Assisted cough techniques provide the strength needed to clear the airways of secretions; an assisted cough machine is also available and provides excellent results.
Good nutrition helps to promote general health in all the muscular dystrophies. No special diet or supplement has been shown to be of use in any of the conditions. The weakness in the throat muscles seen especially in OPMD and later DMD may necessitate the use of a gastrostomy tube, inserted in the stomach to provide nutrition directly.
More information on muscular dystrophy
What is muscular dystrophy? - Muscular dystrophy is a group of inherited diseases that are characterized by weakness and wasting away of muscle tissue.
What types of muscular dystrophy are there? - There are nine types of muscular dystrophy including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Becker muscular dystrophy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy.
What causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)? - Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a rapidly progressive form of muscular dystrophy. It is caused by a defective gene.
What're the symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy? - Symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy include progressive muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis, mental impairment or heart problems.
What causes Becker's muscular dystrophy? - Becker muscular dystrophy is a type of dystrophinopathy which include a spectrum of muscle disease caused by mutations in the DMD gene.
What're the symptoms of Becker's muscular dystrophy? - Symptoms of Becker-type muscular dystrophy are similar to those of Duchenne dystrophy, but they are milder and begin later.
What causes limb-girdle muscular dystrophy? - Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder, it may be inherited as a dominant, recessive, or X-linked genetic defect.
What're the symptoms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy? - Symptoms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy include progressive muscle weakness in the shoulders and hips, together with breathing problems.
What causes facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy? - Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy involves progressive muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue.
What're the symptoms of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy? - Symptoms of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy may begin during infancy, late childhood, or early adulthood.
What causes myotonic dystrophy? - Myotonic dystrophy is caused by an inherited gene defect. Myotonic dystrophy is the most common form of adult muscular dystrophy.
What're the symptoms of myotonic dystrophy? - Symptoms of myotonic dystrophy include muscle weakness and wasting, cataracts, heart problems, constipation and other digestive problems.
How is muscular dystrophy diagnosed? - Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy involves a medical history and physical exam to determine the distribution of symptoms and to rule out other causes.
What's the treatment for muscular dystrophy? - Treatments for muscular include decreased mobility and dexterity, contractures, scoliosis, heart defects, and respiratory weaknesses.