To date, as many as 50,000 Canadians are living with neuromuscular disorders – a term that is used to describe different diseases affecting the ways in which the muscles function. Muscular Dystrophy, for example, is a disease that causes the muscle mass to decrease, as well as muscle weakness.
While symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy are more noticeable in childhood, it is not exclusively a childhood disorder. Muscular Dystrophy can affect individuals of all ages, and symptoms may not occur until later in life.
As mentioned, Muscular Dystrophy can lead to muscle waste and/or weakness. Some of the other predominant symptoms include poor balance, frequent falling, having a limited range of movement, difficulty walking and drooping eyelids. We have genes that are responsible for making proteins to help protect the muscle fibers from damage – it is when these genes become defective that Muscular Dystrophy occurs. Muscular Dystrophy is an inherited disease; therefore you are at a high risk of developing it or passing it onto your children if there is a history of Muscular Dystrophy or other neuromuscular disorders in your family.
As Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive disease, over time you may notice a worsening in the symptoms mentioned above. Some individuals with MD may develop breathing problems and require the use of a breathing device. You may also have trouble swallowing – if that is the case, you may require a feeding tube to ensure that you do not become malnourished. As a result of weaker muscles, your spine may also begin to curve – the medical term for this is scoliosis. The ability to walk may also decrease and can result in the required use of a wheelchair.
To accurately diagnose Muscular Dystrophy, Dr. Ali Ghahary may refer patients for a number of different tests. These include enzyme tests to check your levels of creatine kinase (CK), electrode tests such as electromyography, as well as genetic testing. A muscle biopsy may also be necessary which will be used to analyze the tissue and distinguish the difference between Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders.
There is no known cure for Muscular Dystrophy. However, family physicians such as Dr. Ali Ghahary as well as other medical specialists can provide different treatment recommendations to help reduce the symptoms associated with the disease. Prednisone, for example, is a corticosteroid that is used to treat a wide range of health issues. In patients with Muscular Dystrophy, taking Prednisone can delay the progression of the disease as well as improve muscle strength. However, it is important to note that there are many side effects associated with taking this medication on a long-term basis, such as weakened bones, an increased risk of fractures, as well as weight gain. If Muscular Dystrophy has caused damage to the heart, Dr. Ghahary will prescribe beta-blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme medications. As Muscular Dystrophy can impact one’s ability to be mobile, physical therapy is another treatment option to consider. A physical therapist can provide you with range-of-motion and stretch exercises to help keep your joints flexible.