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Muscular Dystrophy (MD)


UK [1]

  • Muscular Dystrophy Campaign estimate that there are about 30,000 people in the UK with a neuromuscular condition

What is it?

Muscular dystrophy is a name given to a number of conditions which have in common the breakdown of muscle fibres leading to weak and wasted muscles.


Duchenne is one of the most common and most severe conditions. Apart from rare cases, it only affects boys. Walking becomes progressively more difficult as the muscles weaken. The boy will be using a wheelchair by his early teens.

Becker is similar to Duchenne, but less severe.

Facioscapulohumeral (FSH) affects muscles in the face, shoulders and upper arm. Symptoms can appear at any age and vary in severity.

Myotonic Dystrophy affects equal numbers of men and women and can occur at any age. It causes muscle stiffness and progressive weakness in the hands, face, jaw, neck and legs, usually over many years. Other body systems may be involved.

Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), also known as Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy (HMSN), is marked by weakness and wasting below the knees and often in the hands. Some people have a loss of feeling in their hands and feet. Weakness may lead to a need for a walking aid. The condition varies enormously in severity.

Spinal Muscular Atrophies (SMA) are a wasting of the muscles due to degeneration of the nerve endings in the spinal cord. Resulting muscle weakness can be severe and progressive. The outcome varies according to age.

Other conditions include:

  • Congenital MD
  • The Myopathies
  • The Myotonias
  • Limb Girdle types
  • Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis
  • Emery-Dreifuss MD


Symptoms of some disorders may show very early on, even at birth, but other symptoms may only start to show in childhood or adulthood. Some types are more serious than others. Several are very disabling or life-threatening. The rest cause mild disability. Most of the disorders cause progressive weakening of the muscles. Others stay the same. Different conditions affect different muscles and various other body systems may be involved.


It is usually inherited and inheritance risks vary. A number of different faulty genes are responible for the various conditions. Sometimes it appears in a family which has no previous history of it. It can affect both children and adults of any nationality.

Further information

Acknowledgements: This section has been developed with the help of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

[1] The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (n.d.) Introduction to neuromuscular conditions. [accessed 29/11/12].


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