It is common to think of muscular dystrophy as a single disease but in fact it is a group of neuromuscular disorders. Duchenne is the most common form of muscular dystrophy that leads to muscle degeneration and muscle weakness, a disease that begins in childhood. It is genetically based and is caused by a lack of a protein called dystrophin, which goes on to damage the muscles. Ultimately, Duchenne is due to a faulty gene that can be passed on to the baby. In some cases, however, the gene was not passed on from the mother.
The muscles in the lower body are usually affected first, including the hips and pelvic area. Eventually, shoulder muscles will also weaken while the skeletal muscles of the upper body will then follow. Symptoms present themselves between the ages of three and five; while this disease is mostly found in boys, it can occur in girls in rare cases. The symptoms are not noticeable at birth and although they are mild at the beginning, they will worsen over time.
Muscular dystrophy is a serious condition that will shorten life, but the life expectancy of those with muscle dystrophy has dramatically increased due to advances. Life expectancy into the mid-30s is very common and some men even live into their 50s.
Aside from issues with mobility and the eventual use of wheelchair, children with with muscle dystrophy can lead relatively normal lives for some time. Complications such as breathing and heart problems begin to occur between the ages of nine and 11, which is around the time they will require the use of a wheelchair. They will also need to be regularly monitored and will have a team of healthcare professionals in his or her life. This will magnify over time, particularly when your child reaches his or her teens.
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