Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of inherited (genetic) diseases. These diseases are characterized by progressive weakness (myopathy) and loss of muscle mass (atrophy) that result in problems with control of movement. Some types of MD can lead to problems with the muscles of the heart and problems with mental abilities. A few forms of MD can also involve other organs.

The major forms of MD are:

  • Duchenne.

  • Myotonic.

  • Becker.

  • Limb-girdle.

  • Congenital.

  • Oculopharyngeal.

  • Distal.

  • Emery-Dreifuss.

  • Facioscapulohumeral.

Duchenne is the most common form of MD in children. Myotonic MD is the most common form in adults. Muscular dystrophy can affect people of all ages. Some forms of MD are first noticed in infancy or childhood. Others forms of MD may not appear until middle age or later.


  • There is no specific treatment for any of the forms of MD.

  • Treatments that address symptoms may include:

  • Physical therapy to prevent contractures. Contractures are a condition that shortens the muscles around joints causing abnormal and sometimes painful positioning of the joints.

  • Orthoses. Orthoses are orthopedic appliances used for support.

  • Corrective orthopedic surgery to improve the quality of life.

  • A pacemaker to address the cardiac problems that occur with Emery-Dreifuss MD and myotonic MD.

  • Medications. The myotonia occurring in myotonic MD may be treated with medications. Myotonia is the inability to relax a muscle after a strong contraction, like a firm hand grip.