Muscular Dystrophy is an inherited disorder that affects muscle function. It is shown by weakness and wasting of certain muscle groups, the recognized pattern of the groups affected will give rise to the name of that dystrophy e.g. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or DMD.
The problem occurs because as the muscle fibres degenerate, they are replaced with fatty tissue. This may give the appearance of bulk, but fatty tissue is not capable of contracting and stretching as can muscle tissue, so it is of no use whatsoever.
DMD normally affects boys and usually before the age of 4 years. It is tested in the newborn male by a heel prick sample of blood. Girls are normally the carriers and are not usually affected. If it has been discovered in a family, subsequent pregnancies may need to be screened and abortion offered if desired.
Sisters of brothers affected should also be screened to see if they are carriers. The progression of this disease depends on which group of muscles is affected. Deterioration is inevitable as the heart and breathing will become affected. Survival is unlikely beyond the age of 20. Other forms of muscular dystrophy can follow a more benign path.
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