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What are the Different Types of Muscular Dystrophy?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are nine different types of muscular dystrophy, including limb-girdle, Becker, Duchenne, and myotonic. Emery-Dreifuss, distal, and facioscapulohumeral are additional types of muscular dystrophy. Oculopharyngeal and congenital are the remaining two types. The varying types are distinguished by the age of onset, level of severity, and the kind of deformity or disability caused. All types of this genetic disease afflict the muscular system, weakening various muscles and restricting movement.

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy generally attacks muscles in the pelvic region, shoulder area, and back. Both male and female adolescents and teens between the ages of eight and 16 can suffer from this gradually-occurring dystrophy. Becker muscular dystrophy, however, can affect children of a much younger age, between ages 2 and 16. This form of muscular dystrophy can destroy muscles all over the body, but it particularly affects muscles at the tops of the arms and legs as well as in the hip and pelvic areas.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy resembles Becker in the types of muscles targeted and the age of onset. Among all the types of muscular dystrophy, however, Duchenne is the most debilitating and is often seen as a severe form of Becker muscular dystrophy. While people diagnosed with Becker can live well into their 40s or 50s, those with Duchenne may die before reaching the age of 25 or 30.

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People afflicted with myotonic muscular dystrophy often don’t notice symptoms of the disease until after the age of 20 and before the age of 40. Symptoms include the inability to contract or release muscles and poor overall muscle control. Facial muscles and neck muscles are most affected. Muscles in the hands or feet can also be affected.

Emery-Dreifuss is type of muscular dystrophy that appears in childhood, and adolescents and teens are most likely to develop it. The disease reveals itself through emaciated shoulder and arm muscles. Joints also may become painful and immovable. Sometimes, a heart attack results when Emery- Dreifuss muscular dystrophy degrades heart muscles, in which case a pacemaker might be needed. Unlike some other types of muscular dystrophy, Emery- Dreifuss is not a rapidly-advancing disease and symptoms worsen slowly over long periods of time.

Distal muscular dystrophy targets people in middle age, usually between the ages of 40 and 60. It is characterized by the slow and mild-to-moderate loss of muscle control in the limbs. Many patients with this form of muscular dystrophy are able to maintain some level of independence and mobility.

As the prefix indicates, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy affects muscles in a person’s face. The muscle deterioration can extend downward from the face to affect the shoulders and sometimes the arms. This kind of muscular dystrophy typically strikes those in their 20s or teenage years.

Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy is a disease that arises late in life, generally when the victim has passed age 40 and before age 70. Major signs include trembling eyelids and poor control of muscles in the throat. Those afflicted often die because they lose the ability to swallow food.

Congenital muscular dystrophy can begin in the infant stage. Babies with this disease almost immediately display problems controlling any body muscles. As the child ages, muscle control and joint troubles become more extreme. Living to adulthood is often not possible.

All types of muscular dystrophy can be treated, but not cured. Doctors often use drugs such as phenytoin to subdue muscle contractions. To help with loss of mobility, those living with muscular dystrophy might rely on leg braces and other supports or motion aids.

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