Muscular dystrophy is a series of nine heredity disorders and more than 30 related conditions that cause degeneration to muscular tissues throughout the body. The nine most common forms of muscular dystrophy include Beckerís (BMD), facioscapulohumeral, congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD) oculopharyngeal (OPMD), Duchenne, distal, Emery-Dreifuss (EDMD) and limb-girdle.

Muscular dystrophy is caused by defects related to eight different chromosomes that produce vital proteins needed for healthy muscle growth. The symptoms, severity and onset of muscular dystrophy vary greatly depending on the genetic variance and associated effects. Symptoms of muscular dystrophy can begin at infancy through middle age depending on the specific type of MD. Muscular dystrophy is related to autosomes, which are present in males and females as well as allosomes or x-related sex chromosomes that are present in males.

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Duchenne muscular dystrophy is one form of early-onset MD that affects boys typically between the ages of two and six. Duchenne muscular dystrophy was the first form of the disease to be formally classified in the 1860s by French physician and neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who was studying a number of boys with symptoms related to this particularly debilitating form of the disease, which often leads to the inability to walk. Muscular dystrophy has also been linked to mild mental retardation, delayed motor skills, hydrocephalus and other conditions, but by no means are all patients affected. When diagnosed at birth or within the first nine months, muscular dystrophy is termed congenital. Congenital muscular dystrophy or (CMD) applies to multiple forms of the disease ranging from mild myotonic dystrophy also know as Steinert's disease to severe forms of MD with complications that include seizures, brain abnormalities and delayed speech.

150 years after muscular dystrophy was first recognized many aspects of the disease remain unknown, which make it difficult for doctors and scientists to develop a cure. Today, patients diagnosed with muscular dystrophy have a number of treatment options that make it possible to slow the on-set of the disease and prolong walking ability by two years or more even in the most severe forms of the MD. Treatment plans for those diagnosed with MD include physical therapy and prescription medications, such as steroids, antibiotics and immunosuppressants. Maintaining a healthy diet is also extremely important for those diagnosed with any form of muscular dystrophy.

Because there is no cure for MD, patients and family members can feel helpless after receiving a diagnosis. With the support of a muscular dystrophy clinic and caring professionals anyone can develop a treatment plan that vastly improves the quality of life. Monitoring heart health, pulmonary capacity and muscle strength is extremely important for anyone with MD. Many patients with advanced forms of muscular dystrophy lead normal lives, but require pacemakers or non-invasive breathing devices to control their health.

Muscular dystrophy is a difficult diagnosis for anyone, but establishing a proactive treatment plan can help adult patients and children take control of their health. Pharmaceutical treatments include catabolic steroids, such as Prednisone, low doses of anabolic steroids as well as Albuterol. In some cases, calcium blockers and antibiotics like Gentamycin have been used successfully. However, all pharmaceutical treatments have risks and side effects, and these drugs are not compatible with all treatment plans or forms of MD.

Physical therapy, prosthetic ankle braces and walking aids can help patients maintain and regain mobility. In addition to supervised sessions with a physical therapist, patients can stretch muscles, practice balancing on one foot and do a variety of muscle toning activities at home. Because muscular dystrophy can affect the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, itís important to include fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber legumes and high-protein foods, such as fish and chicken that contain valuable supplies of creatine, which support healthy muscles and relax shortened tissue. For all patients, the most important thing is focusing on what you can do not what you canít do by establishing new hobbies and interests.

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