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Can You Survive Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is not a single disease, but a group of almost over 30 different genetic diseases, which are categorized by a characteristic progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles that control movements in our body.1 The different types of muscular dystrophy are classified into 9 major categories depending on various factors.

Can You Survive Muscular Dystrophy?

The prognosis and survival rate for people who are diagnosed with muscular dystrophy varies greatly according to the age of the person, the extent to which it has already spread and the type of the disease. Some types of muscular dystrophy are comparatively mild and progress very slowly. In these types, the lifespan of the affected person may be as normal as any other person. Some other types however, are very severe and cause a rapid progression of the disease, decreasing the lifespan significantly.

Affected person may develop functional disabilities, severe muscle weakness and in some types may even lose the ability to walk. Some types that are seen in infancy result in the death of the child in infancy itself, whereas others progress into adulthood and experience only little disability. With the advancement of treatment and therapies these days, the prognosis and survival rate has improved significantly for almost all types of muscular dystrophy.

In order to obtain a broader view of survival rate for muscular dystrophy, let us have a look at the complications, treatment and therapies for muscular dystrophy.

Complications Of Muscular Dystrophy

The complications of muscular dystrophy include, but are not limited to the following. These complications, along with the age at which these complications occur, affect the survival rate and the overall prognosis of the disease.

Walking problems:

In some forms of muscular dystrophy, walking becomes progressively difficult and affected people need to use a wheelchair at some or the other point of their lives.1

Muscle contractures:

Muscle contractures or shortening of the muscles can be seen and it affects one’s ability to be mobile.

Respiratory problems:

The progressive weakness and wasting of muscles can also interfere with the muscles responsible for breathing.

Assisted breathing methods may be needed in some forms of the disease.


Scoliosis or a curved spine is seen in many forms as the muscles get weaker and weaker and are unable to hold the spine as they should.

Cardiac problems:

The cardiac muscles can decrease in efficiency due to the muscle weakness and wasting.

This may lead to various heart problems.

Facial problems:

  • Eating and swallowing may become gradually difficult in some forms which affect the face and throat muscles.
  • As a result, there may be some nutritional problems due to poor intake.
  • Aspiration pneumonia may also develop because of swallowing problems.

Treatment Of Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy cannot be cured.2 However, with the help of treatment, the symptoms and problems can be reduced in frequency and intensity. Treatment can help in slowing the progression of the disease significantly, thereby increasing the lifespan of the affected individual.


  • Certain medications can help in giving strength to the weak muscles.
  • Though this is still under trial and research, there are not many options available in medicines for muscular dystrophy.

Medicines like corticosteroids can help by increasing the muscle strength and the progression of certain types of muscular dystrophy can be delayed. However, they pose other risks like obesity and bone problems. Hence, they are to be used under proper medical guidance.

  • If muscular dystrophy affects the heart, heart medicines can be recommended by a specialist.
  • Other treatment options include exercises, braces, mobility aids and assisted breathing devices, according to the stage of the disease.
  • Surgery may be required in some cases, especially in spine curvature.


Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that causes progressive muscle weakness and wasting. There is no cure to this disease and survival or prognosis largely depends upon the type of the disease, the age at which it starts and the rate of progression of the disease.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 26, 2019

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