Pediatric Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that causes weakness in the muscle and usually shows signs in the first few years of a child’s life.
Dystrophy is any condition that causes a part of the body to weaken or waste away. In the case of muscular dystrophy, this weakness occurs in the muscles. Children with this condition do not make a protein that helps build muscles and keep them strong. This is an inherited, genetic (passed down from parent to child) condition that is congenital (present at birth). Most children with muscular dystrophy develop normally for the first couple years of life, and then start to show signs of clumsiness related to this condition.
There are several types of muscular dystrophy, which include:
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy – The most common and severe form of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy usually starts between the ages of 2 and 5. This disorder also damages the heart and muscles needed to breathe, so it can be life threatening.
- Becker muscular dystrophy – This condition is similar to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, though the symptoms start later – around the teen years – and develop more slowly. This condition usually affects the legs and pelvis.
- Myotonic dystrophy – This form of muscular dystrophy may be diagnosed shortly after birth or it may develop during the teen or early adult years. This condition usually impacts the muscles of the face, hands or legs.
- Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy – This condition begins in childhood or during the teenage years. Often, the first muscles affected are the large muscles of the pelvis, shoulders and hips.
- Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy – This form of muscular dystrophy appears in the teenage years or even later. This condition typically affects the muscles of the face, back and upper arms. Oftentimes, the hips and legs can also be affected.
- Myotonic muscular dystrophy – In this form of muscular dystrophy, the person is unable to relax their muscles following contractions of the muscles. The most common form of adult-onset muscular dystrophy, the person’s facial and neck muscles are typically affected first.
Though symptoms vary according to the specific type of muscular dystrophy, a child with a muscular dystrophy can experience these symptoms:
- Cataracts (clouding of the eyes’ lenses)
- Curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Difficulty raising the front of the foot (foot drop)
- Difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Frequent falling
- Heart problems, including irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Larger-than-normal calves
- Learning disabilities or behavioral problems
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble learning to sit independently and walk
- Walking unsteady or waddling when walking
- Walking on the toes or balls of the feet
- Weakness in the muscles