<strong>What Is Muscular Dystrophy (MD) in Children?</strong>

What Is Muscular Dystrophy (MD) in Children?

In the UK alone, 110,000 children and adults are diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Despite this, a lot of people are not aware of what the conditions are or what symptoms to look for in a child. In this blog, our physiotherapists at Therapy Stars are going to discuss all that muscular dystrophy is, the symptoms and issues it can cause for children and how these symptoms can be treated.

What is muscular dystrophy in children? Muscular Dystrophy (MD) in children is a term used to cover several conditions of muscle diseases which are caused by a mutation in someone’s genes which leads to weakening and breakdown of skeletal muscles. Each can present with different severity and symptoms depending on an individual’s diagnosis. Probably the most well-known and most common is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

Read on to learn more about muscular dystrophy, the types of diseases it can cause, and how physiotherapy can help children diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.

How Does Muscular Dystrophy Present in Children?

Typically muscular dystrophy presents in children between the ages of 3-6 years. , There are multiple signs that may indicate that the child has muscular dystrophy. These include but are not limited to:

  • Delay in walking 
  • Clumsy movement (for example, falling over regularly)
  • Finding it difficult to sit up or stand up
  • Weakness in the pelvic and shoulder muscles
  • Tip-toe walking
  • Difficult climbing or jumping 
  • Losing skills that have previously been gained

If you’d like to find out more about tip toe walking, and at which point you may want to seek professional advice, read one of our recent blogs – ‘Why Do Children Walk On Their Tip Toes?

What Diseases Are Considered Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular Dystrophy is the group name given to a number of neuromuscular diseases, each with its own symptoms and impacts on a person. These are just some of the diseases that are classed as muscular dystrophy;

  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)
  • Myotonic Dystrophy (DM)
  • Distal Dystrophy (DD)
  • Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy (EDMD)
  • Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy (OPMD)
  • Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD)

Probably the most well-known and most common disease associated with muscular dystrophy is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). It is estimated that every year in the world 20,000 children are diagnosed with DMD. 

What Is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)?

DMD is a neuromuscular condition that causes progressive muscle weakness. This is due to a lack of a protein called Dystrophin. DMD is a genetic condition linked to the X chromosome, and therefore affects males. Females can, however, be carriers of DMD. Approximately 100 boys are born in the UK with DMD every year.

Boys with DMD often first present with mobility problems at a very young age (around 2-4 years). They may seem clumsy, struggle to keep up with their friends and be unable to complete more difficult physical tasks such as climbing stairs and jumping. It is also very common for them to resort to walking on their toes (although there are many other reasons for toe-walking). They may have frequent falls and tire very easily. Diagnosis can be via a DNA test and/or muscle biopsies, but your first port of call, if you have any concerns, should be your own child’s GP.

Can Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy be Treated?

There are several specialist centres for DMD, including three in the North-West (Alder Hey, Oswestry and Manchester). They all have their own teams which include consultants and physiotherapists who will review and assess the child regularly and liaise with their local doctors and therapists.

There is currently no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Treatment consists of managing the symptoms of the condition, which can include maintaining mobility (by regularly taking part in activities like physiotherapy), medication and regular monitoring. There are several research projects and trials being held all over the world to try to find a cure or the best treatment for DMD.

What Are The Treatments For Muscular Dystrophy? 

There is no cure for most children diagnosed with muscular dystrophy diseases such as DMD, but there are ways in which you can manage the symptoms of the conditions. Since each disease presents itself differently in terms of symptoms, each child will need tailored treatment based on their exact needs and mobility goals. A professional physiotherapist will collaborate with you to ensure your child receives the most effective treatment available to them.

One of the key ways that are suggested by professionals to help manage the problems associated with muscular dystrophy is physiotherapy.  Physiotherapy is key to maintaining muscle length and mobility with muscular dystrophy. Regular stretching, use of standing frames, hydrotherapy, orthotics and specialised seating all help to promote postural management and maintenance of function. Physiotherapists may also be involved in respiratory management-that is setting up and use of equipment to help maintain their oxygen levels and clear their airways if required.

If you would like to find out more about hydrotherapy and its benefits to children with mobility issues, read one of our recent blog posts – ‘What Are the Benefits Of Hydrotherapy For Children?

Physiotherapy For Children Diagnosed With Muscular Dystrophy 

At Therapy Stars, our team of pediatric physiotherapists aim to help your child reach their full potential and relieve their symptoms in a fun, practical way.  Our children’s physiotherapy service is available from birth up to the age of 18 and beyond into adulthood when needed. Our team is experienced to work with a number of different needs and specialities, including Muscular Dystrophy.

Why not book a complimentary call to discuss your child’s needs and find out how our tailored physio services can help?