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Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of inhereted diseases that causes voluntary muscles to progressively weaken, and in some cases the heart and other organs are also affected. This disorder affects people of all ages, all sexes, and vary in inheritance patterns, age of onset, muscles attacked, and the progression of the disease. Symptoms include weakeing of muscles, obesity, joint contractures, delayed development of coordination and msucle skills, cataracts, balding, drooping eyelids, atrophies, and mental impairment.

There are nine types of Muscular dystrophy. These nine types include Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy, the most common type of the disease in adults. Myotonic is also found in children, and occasionally in newborns. It is present in both men and women. Myotonic is a form of the muscular disorder where muscles experience a prolonged spasm, or stiffening after use. These symptoms are more severe in cool temperatures. This form affects the Central Nervous System, Heart, Gastrointestinal Tract, Eyes, and Hormone Producing Glands. Most sufferers are able to live a somewhat normal life without daily restrictions, however they have a decreased life expectancy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most common form of Muscular Dystrophy in children, affects only males. Duchenne is normally noticed around 2 to 6 years of age, and are normally mildly retarted before diagnosis. In this form of the disease, the muscles in the body become weaker and decrease in size; however, the muscles appear to grow bigger. In the final stages of the disease, it becomes difficult to breathe and heart problems normally develop. Most victims die as a teenager or in their early twenties. Becker Muscular Dystropy is similar to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in a milder form. The symptoms appear later and more slowly. This form of the disorder is most commonly noticed between ages 2 and 16, but can go undetected up to age 25. It affects only males and leads to heart problems. The victims can often walk trough their thirties, and after they can live through the rest of their adultood. Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy affects teenage males and females. The muscles become weaker, first affecting the hips then weakening the shoulders, arms, and legs. Most people with Limb-Girdle live through mid to late adulthood. Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy is seen in young adults, both male and female.

Facioscapulohumeral affects the muscles of the face, shoulder, and upper arm. Muscle deterioration occurs slowly, with small periods of rapid muscle weakening. Sufferers live a normal lifespan, but experience problems talking, chewing, and swallowing. Congenital Muscular Dystrophy is discovered at birth in male and female newborns. The muscles become weak, and shrink which lead to joint problems. Children who suffer from this form of Muscular Dystrophy often suffer from seizures and brain damage, and live a short life.Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy is found in middle-aged men and women; it affects the neck and throat. Distal Muscular Dystrophy is a rare disease that affects the muscles of adult men and women in the distal (most distant from the midline) areas of their bodies; like the feet, lower legs, forearms, and hands. It is less common and severe than other forms of Muscular Dystrophy. It progresses very slowly, and does not affect many muscles. Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy is very uncommon, however, when seen, it is found in young teenage males. It causes the deterioration or wasting of muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, and upper legs. Muscle shortening is a common symptom in the early stages of te disease. The weakening of muscles is slower, and less severe than other forms of Muscular Dystrophy.

Muscular Dystrophy is caused by a defect of a certain gene. The gene that is affected determines the type of Muscular Dystrophy the sufferer has. The muscle protein which affects the genes is called Dystrophin. This is a gentic disease which is passed from the parents to the child. The parents do not have to suffer from the disease, they just need to be carriers of the disorder.

This disease is diagnosed by studying the genetic history of the patient, a muscle biopsy, blood or DNA tests, or with a series of EKG (muscle stimulation) tests.

Muscular Dystrophy has no known cure. However, exercises, corrective surgeries, and braces are used to slow down the deterioration of muscles. Scientists are studying Molecular Therapy and Gene Therapy which are experiamental cures for the disorder.