Our grateful thanks to Muscular Dystrophy UK for their contribution to our radio report. Our grateful thanks, as ever, to the NHS for the use of the infomation below - the full unabridged version with additional links for further information and support is available here.
The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of inherited genetic conditions that gradually cause the muscles to weaken, leading to an increasing level of disability.
MD is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. It often begins by affecting a particular group of muscles, before affecting the muscles more widely.
Some types of MD eventually affect the heart or the muscles used for breathing, at which point the condition becomes life-threatening.
There's no cure for MD, but treatment can help to manage many of the symptoms.
What causes muscular dystrophy? MD is caused by changes (mutations) in the genes responsible for the structure and functioning of a person's muscles.
The mutations cause changes in the muscle fibres that interfere with the muscles' ability to function. Over time, this causes increasing disability.
The mutations are often inherited from a person's parents. If you have a family history of MD, your GP may refer you for genetic testing and counselling to evaluate your risk of developing the condition or having a child with MD and to discuss the options available to you.
Types of muscular dystrophy. There are many different types of MD, each with somewhat different symptoms. Not all types cause severe disability and many don't affect life expectancy. Some of the more common types of MD include:
Who's affected by muscular dystrophy? In the UK, around 110,000 people have MD or a related condition.
Diagnosing muscular dystrophy. Many different methods can be used to diagnose the various types of MD. The age at which the condition is diagnosed will vary depending on when symptoms first start to appear. Diagnosis will involve some or all of the following stages:
See a GP if you or your child has any symptoms of MD. If necessary, they may refer you to a hospital for further tests.
Treating muscular dystrophy. There's no cure for MD, but a range of treatments can help with the physical disabilities and problems that may develop. These can include:
New research is looking into ways of repairing the genetic mutations and damaged muscles associated with MD.
Support groups. MD can affect you emotionally, as well as physically. Support groups and organisations may help you understand and come to terms with your condition. They can also provide useful advice and support for those who care for people with MD.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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