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Muscular Dystrophy Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is the name used to describe a number of diseases that causes gradual wasting of the muscles and accompanying weakness. For the most part they are genetically determined. They are not contagious. Although it’s commonly believed to be a childhood disease it can develop later in life. The different types of MD vary in the age in which the onset of the disease occurs and the muscles affected. The major forms of MD are Duchenne, Becker, limb-girdle, facioscapulohumeral, congenital, distal, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, and Emery-Dreifuss. Most MD’s are multi-system disorders which manifest in the heart, nervous system, eyes, brain, endocrine glands, and gastrointestinal system. The signs and symptoms of MD are: Progressive muscular wasting Muscle spasms Poor balance Joint contractures Waddling gait Drooping eyelids Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) Frequent falls Atrophy Inability to walk Deformity of the calf Limited range of motion Difficulty in breathing Cardiomyopathy Arrhythmias Respiratory difficulty These conditions are generally inherited, however approximately a third of them are mutations of the dystrophin genes and nutritional defects in the prenatal stage. Also, 10-30% of some of the types of MD are spontaneous…not resulting from inherited genes. The first signs of weakness are a waddling gait, delayed onset of walking, difficulty from rising from the floor, and difficulty in performing a standing jump. Later signs include difficulty in rising from a chair, a wide gait with balance problems, and difficulty in climbing stairs. Muscular Dystrophy occurs in approximately 1 in 3,500 in male births and 1 in 50,000,000 female births. In Australia there are approximately 100 per 100,000 people affected with MD. To diagnosis MD the individual must undergo a battery of tests. These tests include muscle biopsy, electromyography, DNA analysis, electrocardiography, and checking the creatine phosphokinase. A physical history, including that of relatives, will aid in a correct diagnosis. Specific muscle groups are affected by the different types of MD. Fatty tissue build-up on the muscles and connective tissues can mask the muscle mass resulting in difficulty in a correct diagnosis. There is no known cure for MD. However, there are treatments that can either slow the progression of the disease or ease the pain or discomfort. These treatments include, but are not limited to, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and orthopedic instruments (wheel chairs, standing frames and mobile supports). The prognosis for people with MD varies widely depending on the type they have. Some cases may be mild and progress slowly, while others are born with it and don’t survive infancy. As varied as MD cases are, it’s essential that a positive attitude and good support system is the key. Making the patient as comfortable as possible and informing yourself