Muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy

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About muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy causes the gradual weakening and wasting of the skeletal muscles, which control body movement.

Muscle weakness varies depending on the type of muscular dystrophy a child has. It can range from very mild to very severe.

Muscular dystrophy is usually progressive. That means the symptoms get worse over time. For example, a person with muscular dystrophy might gradually lose the ability to walk.

There are more than 30 different types of muscular dystrophy.

The most common type is Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This type first shows as muscle weakness in early childhood. Most children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy use a wheelchair by the time they're 12-13 years old. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is associated with a high risk of scoliosis.

Muscular dystrophy affects about 1 in every 1000 people. Duchenne muscular dystrophy mostly affects boys. It can affect girls, but this is rare.

Causes of muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder. It's usually inherited from one or both of a child's parents. Sometimes muscular dystrophy isn't inherited but is caused by a random change in a baby's genes at the time of conception.

Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy

Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy involves careful examination by a health care professional.

Because muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder, genetic testing can confirm the type of muscular dystrophy a child has.

Treatment for children with muscular dystrophy

There's no cure for muscular dystrophy. But children and teenagers with muscular dystrophy might be able to do exercises and stretching to help with symptoms and improve quality of life. Braces or splints can sometimes help with symptoms too.

In some types of muscular dystrophy, medications like corticosteroids might help with symptoms.

Some children with scoliosis caused by muscular dystrophy might need surgery. This is because scoliosis can cause breathing difficulties if it's left untreated.

If your child has muscular dystrophy, it's easy to get caught up in supporting his needs. But it's important to look after your own wellbeing and get support for yourself too. If you're physically and mentally well, you'll be better able to care for your child.

People who can help children with muscular dystrophy

If your child has muscular dystrophy, you and your child might work with some or all of the following professionals:

  • cardiologist
  • dietitian
  • genetic counsellor
  • neurologist
  • occupational therapist
  • orthopaedic surgeon
  • paediatrician
  • physiotherapist
  • respiratory physician
  • social worker.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) might support your child with muscular dystrophy, as well as you and your family. Our guide has answers to your questions about the NDIS.


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