Muscular dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of over 30 diseases that are genetically inherited and that result in muscle degeneration, progressive muscle weakness and shortening of muscles or tendons that can be permanent.1 Muscular dystrophy is classified majorly into nine types, all of which are characterized according to the age that they start at, the progression of the disease and the organs that it majorly affects.
Can Muscular Dystrophy Be Prevented?
Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetically inherited diseases. Hence, it cannot be prevented. However, if there is a known family history of muscular dystrophy, then genetic screening may be helpful in detecting the disease early and thus starting a prompt and efficient treatment. The genetic testing can be performed on anyone from infants to children to adults. It can be now performed on fetuses in womb even.2 The early detection can help in starting the treatment early, thereby reducing the severity of symptoms and even slowing down the progression of the disease.
Let us understand the causes and the inheritance pattern of muscular dystrophy:
- Muscular dystrophy occurs as a result of mutation in some specific genes. The type of the disease is determined according the gene that is involved in mutation. Some genetic defects have been established which are responsible for some types of the disease. However, researches are still going on to find out the genetic problems that are responsible for other types of muscular dystrophy.
- Most of the types of muscular dystrophy are a resultant of disease called X-linked disorders. These disorders are passed by a mother to her male child even if the mother is not suffering from the disorder.
- It can be understood as follows. There are two chromosomes in men- one X and one Y. Similarly, there are two chromosomes in women- both X. Hence, if a girl must be affected by muscular dystrophy, both the X chromosomes-one from each parent should carry the defective gene. This is extremely rare, as the mother must be a carrier in this and the father must have muscular dystrophy.
- A woman who carries a defective X chromosome can transmit it to her son, who has a Y chromosome from his father
- Some types of muscular dystrophy are not inherited, and they result as there is a new genetic mutation or abnormality.
All these factors are related to the genes and the chromosomes, which are beyond the control of medical science, treatments and precautions. Hence, it is not possible to prevent genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy.
However, with an early detection of the disease and start of a timely treatment, the disease progression can be slowed down. The symptoms can be reduced in severity and in some cases, the frequency of symptoms can be reduced.
The treatment methods and therapies that are usually followed are given below-
There is no specified treatment for muscular dystrophy that can cure or reverse any form of the disease. The treatment mainly focuses on reducing the severity of symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease. The treatment methods may include medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercises, support therapy with the use of various assisted techniques and corrective surgeries for deformed bones and joints.
Medications For Muscular Dystrophy
Medications can give some strength to weak muscles, although this theory is still under further research. However, in some types of muscular dystrophy such medications have been proven useful. Corticosteroids can be used to give strength to the muscles, however they provide a risk factor in terms of obesity and bone degeneration. Heart medicines can be given if heart functioning is affected due to the disease.
Other therapies include some exercises, that are designed by physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Supporting the vital organs with assisted techniques may be carried out in later stages of the disease. Surgery is required especially when there is a spine .deformity, and breathing becomes increasingly difficult.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that is genetically inherited. Hence, muscular dystrophy cannot be prevented.