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Articles » NINDS Muscular Dystrophy (MD) Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Muscular Dystrophy (MD) Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Muscular Dystrophy (MD) Information Page: NINDS

Main condition: Muscular Dystrophy

Conditions: Muscular Dystrophy

What is Muscular Dystrophy (MD)?
Muscular dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal or voluntary muscles which control movement. The muscles of the heart and some other involuntary muscles are also affected in some forms of MD, and a few forms involve other organs as well. The major forms of MD include myotonic, Duchenne, Becker, limb-girdle, facioscapulohumeral, congenital, oculopharyngeal, distal and Emery-Dreifuss. Duchenne is the most common form of MD affecting children, and myotonic MD is the most common form affecting adults. MD can affect people of all ages. Although some forms first become apparent in infancy or childhood, others may not appear until middle age or later.

Is there any treatment?
There is no specific treatment for any of the forms of MD. Physical therapy to prevent contractures (a condition in which shortened muscles around joints cause abnormal and sometimes painful positioning of the joints), orthoses (orthopedic appliances used for support) and corrective orthopedic surgery may be needed to improve the quality of life in some cases. The cardiac problems that occur with Emery-Dreifuss MD and myotonic MD may require a pacemaker. The myotonia (delayed relaxation of a muscle after a strong contraction) occurring in myotonic MD may be treated with medications such as phenytoin or quinine.

What is the prognosis?
The prognosis of MD varies according to the type of MD and the progression of the disorder. Some cases may be mild and very slowly progressive, with normal lifespan, while other cases may have more marked progression of muscle weakness, functional disability and loss of ambulation. Life expectancy may depend on the degree of progression and late respiratory deficit. In Duchenne MD, death usually occurs in the late teens to early 20s.

What research is being done?
The NINDS supports a broad program of research on MD. The goals of these studies are to increase understanding of MD and its cause(s), develop better therapies, and, ultimately, find ways to prevent and cure the disorder.


Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD) Society
3 Westwood Road
Lexington, MA 02420
Tel: 781-860-0501
Fax: 781-860-0599

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation
2330 North Meridien Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
Tel: 317-923-6333 800-544-1213
Fax: 317-923-6334

Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy Research
1012 North University Blvd.
Middletown, OH 45042
Tel: 413-424-0696 800-714-KIDS (5437)
Fax: 513-425-9907

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Workshop on Theraputic Approaches for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
    Summary of a May 2000 NINDS workshop on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
  • Conference on the Cause and Treatment of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy
    Summary of a conference, "The Cause and Treatment of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy," held May 8-9, 2000.
  • Congressional Testimony on Muscular Dystrophy, February 27, 2001.
    Congressional testimony on muscular dystrophy by Dr. Audrey Penn, Acting Director, NINDS, February 2001.

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


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