About muscular dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy causes the gradual weakening and wasting of muscles, especially the muscles that connect to bones and control body movement.
Muscle weakness varies depending on the type of muscular dystrophy a child has. It can range from very mild to very severe.
Muscular dystrophy is usually progressive. That means the symptoms get worse over time. For example, a person with muscular dystrophy might gradually lose the ability to walk.
There are more than 30 different types of muscular dystrophy.
The most common type is Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This type first shows as muscle weakness in early childhood. Most children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy use a wheelchair by the time they’re 12-13 years old.
Muscular dystrophy affects about 1 in every 1000 people. Duchenne muscular dystrophy mostly affects boys. It can affect girls, but this is rare.
Causes of muscular dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition. It’s usually inherited from one or both of a child’s parents. Sometimes muscular dystrophy isn’t inherited but is caused by a random change in a baby’s genes at the time of conception.
Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy
Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy involves careful examination by a health care professional.
Because muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition, genetic testing can confirm the type of muscular dystrophy a child has.
Treatment, therapies and supports for children with muscular dystrophy
There’s no cure for muscular dystrophy, but professional support and therapy can help children stay healthy and grow well.
Children and teenagers with muscular dystrophy can do exercises and stretching to help with symptoms and improve quality of life. Braces or splints can sometimes help with symptoms too. Some children might need surgery to straighten their spine or other joints.
And in some types of muscular dystrophy, medications like corticosteroids might help with symptoms.
All therapies and medical treatments aim to help children and teenagers lead an active life.
If your child has muscular dystrophy, it’s easy to get caught up in supporting their needs. But it’s important to look after your own wellbeing and get support for yourself too. If you’re physically and mentally well, you’ll be better able to care for your child.
People who can help children with muscular dystrophy
If your child has muscular dystrophy, you and your child might work with some or all of the following professionals:
- genetic counsellor
- occupational therapist
- orthopaedic surgeon
- respiratory physician
- social worker.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) might support your child with muscular dystrophy, as well as you and your family. Our guide has answers to your questions about the NDIS.