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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Muscular Dystrophy

Description: There are various forms of Muscular Dystrophy, including Becker, Congenital, Duchenne, Distal, Emery-Dreifuss, Facioscapulohumeral, Limb-Girdle, Myotonic and Oculopharyngeal. These are genetic diseases, often inherited, characterized by a progressive degeneration of the skeletal muscles that govern mobility. The heart and other organs can be affected as well. Some strains of the disease first manifest themselves during infancy or childhood while others may strike in middle- or old-age.

Symptoms: Symptoms of the different muscular dystrophies include general weakening of all muscles including the pelvis, arms, legs, hands, shoulder, eyelids, and throat. Because of difficulty swallowing, some patients become emaciated. The disease can progress rapidly, claiming lives before age 30, often as a result of cardiopulmonary complications. In other forms, muscular dystrophies can last decades and not cause total incapacity.

Number of Americans diagnosed: Approximately 250,000 Americans suffer from one form of Muscular Dystrophy, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Long-term problems/treatments: As the disease progresses, various body muscles deteriorate and waste away. In Congenital, Distal, and Becker Muscular Dystrophies, survival runs well into middle age and does not lead to total immobility or death. Other forms can be life-ending as a result of cardiac and cardiopulmonary complications. Physical therapy and moderate exercise can help reduce pain around the joints and prevent scoliosis, while canes and wheelchairs commonly help patients maintain their mobility.
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Muscular Dystrophy Association

Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Australia


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