Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: An Overview

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a debilitating disease that causes rapid weakening of the body’s muscles.  Unlike other types of muscular dystrophy that worsens much slower, this disease shows its symptoms even during the early stages of life.  Patients afflicted with this disease may experience trouble in life’s developmental stages such as when starting to stand and walk.  Symptoms may even appear during infancy and may be more obvious during the patient’s toddler and early childhood years.  Loss of the ability to walk, for example, may be observed as early as the twelfth year of age; such patients then will be permanently confined to using a wheelchair for their entire life.

 

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a rogue gene that affects the protein levels in the body’s muscles.  This disease disables the function of dsytrophin, a compound responsible for metabolizing proteins that are needed for muscle development.  Negating the function of this gene will cease development of the muscles and will result to overall weakening of the body and the disability to perform motor functions.  Besides weakening the muscles, the disease may also cause mental retardation in some cases.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy can be inherited, and people with a family history of such a disease make them more prone to this sickness.  However, there are also cases of the disease in patients that do not have a history of the disease whatsoever.  If the disease is inherited, research shows that males have a higher risk of contracting the disease than their female kin.  There is relatively a small chance (0.027% or 1 out of 3,600 male births) this rare medical condition can occur.

 

The symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy can be observed before the patient reaches the age of six. These symptoms may even be already present during infancy.  The patient’s general muscle weakness can be observed if there is difficulty in doing normal physical activities such as crawling for infants and walking and standing straight for children and toddlers.  The disease initially inflicts damage on the lower parts of the body, such as the legs and hips but can also affect the arms, neck and other muscles of the body.  There is overall body weakness that worsens in just a short period of time until the patient is completely immobilize and would require implements just to move around (i.e. wheelchairs or braces).

 

Tests are done to confirm if the patient is really inflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Such tests may reveal deformities in the muscle tissues, abnormalities in the heart muscle and rhythm, visible physical deformities, loss of muscle mass, and symptoms of other diseases such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure.  If the tests reveal the above signs, it is best to take the patient to therapy to control the symptoms and regain a quality life for the patient.

 

There is no known cure yet for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but there is hope that one will be discovered in the future.  One of the possibilities could be gene therapy, wherein the defective gene can be repaired to perform its protein-building functions through medical means.  At present, the best way to ease the pain and suffering from the disease is by encouraging physical activities and joining support groups.  Physical activities can strengthen the patient’s musculature, in contrast to bed rest that can only make the condition worse. Joining a support group on the other hand, helps the patient cope mentally and emotionally with the disease through communicating and relating with others who share their plight.

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  1. The disease is commonly inherited so its more likely unavoidable. So, instead of preventing it, we can let it be lighter for the patient’s part. There are activities you can enjoy with them to strengthen her muscles slowly.

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