What is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is a group of related neuromuscular disorders.  This means that they affect muscles in your body that you can typically control (for instance, the muscles in your arms, legs, and hands). Muscular dystrophy is a progressive condition, meaning that it worsens over time.

There are different forms of muscular dystrophy, which are caused by gene mutation and result in muscle weakening. Muscular dystrophy differs in characteristics like: which muscles are affected, how quickly the condition worsens, and the age and gender of people most likely to be diagnosed.

What are the symptoms of muscular dystrophy?

All types of muscular dystrophy are characterized by increasing muscle weakness. This weakness presents in different ways, depending on the type of muscular dystrophy.

Symptoms of muscular dystrophy can present at different stages of life and affect different muscle groups. In addition to muscle weakness, some types are associated with intellectual disabilities, difficulty walking or breathing, heart problems and vision problems.

How is muscular dystrophy diagnosed?

The diagnostic process begins with a review of symptoms and medical history.  After this process, a neurologist may order diagnostic tests, including:

  • Nerve conduction and electromyogram: These tests measure the ability of nerves to conduct impulses to muscle, as well as the electrical activity of muscle.
  • Serum enzyme test: Muscular dystrophy can cause a significant increase in the muscle protein levels found in the blood. This test examines your current levels and compares them to that of muscular dystrophy patients.
  • Muscle biopsy: A biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that removes muscle cells to detect any abnormalities in the number of proteins and observe any characteristic changes in muscle composition. This is a simple, routine process and you will be home the same day.
  • Genetic testing: Muscular dystrophy is caused by gene mutations. Genetic testing can help your doctor reach a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and determine the specific type of disease present.

 How is muscular dystrophy treated?

At MedStar Georgetown, we offer a range of therapies that can improve quality of life for patients with muscular dystrophy.  We offer a patient-centered clinic supported by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and ALS Association. This clinic is led by a neurologist working alongside a multidisciplinary team. Patients may be evaluated by a pulmonologist, respiratory technologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and/or wheelchair specialist.  This model provides a seamless, coordinated care experience and reduces the frequency of medical visits.

MedStar Georgetown’s expert neurology team offers the best possible care for muscular dystrophy. We can help you take charge of your health and make your life more active and independent as possible.

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a neurology specialist, please call our scheduling line or use our online request form below. MDA/ALS multidisciplinary clinics are held every Wednesday morning 8:30-12:00. 

Phone: 202-444-8525
Fax: 877-245-1499