Skip to content

Children's Health

Understanding Muscular Dystrophy -- Symptoms

Font Size
A
A
A

Dystrophy is any condition in which a part of the body weakens or wastes away. In muscular dystrophy, the weakness is in the muscles. An inherited genetic mistake prevents the body from making a protein that helps build muscles and keep them strong.

Children who are born with muscular dystrophy usually develop normally for the first few years of life. They may suddenly show signs of clumsiness. These signs include:

Recommended Related to Children

Swallowing Gum

Q: My 7-year-old son likes to swallow his bubblegum. I’ve heard that it will stay in his stomach forever. True? A: This old wives’ tale is very popular on the playground, but it’s definitely FALSE. "It is true that most of the components of bubblegum are not found in nature," says Robynne Chutkan, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University. "And as such we don’t have the enzymes to break them down. But eventually gum does get through the intestine...

Read the Swallowing Gum article > >

  • trouble walking
  • difficulty raising the front of their foot (called foot drop)
  • falling

Over time, children with muscular dystrophy can become weaker and weaker, losing the ability to sit, walk, and lift objects. Because the disease can also affect muscles in the heart and lungs, serious heart and breathing problems can occur.

There are several different types of muscular dystrophy. Muscle weakness is a hallmark of each type. But the symptoms can vary and start at different ages.

Some muscular dystrophies are mild. Others are severe and cause greater muscle loss.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common and severe form of the disease. It usually starts when a child is between ages 2 and 5.

Symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy include:

  • Muscle weakness that begins in the hips, pelvis, and legs
  • Difficulty standing
  • Trouble learning to sit independently and walk
  • Unsteady, waddling gait
  • Walking on the toes or balls of the feet
  • Clumsiness, falling often
  • Trouble climbing stairs
  • Difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position
  • Larger-than-normal calves that are sometimes painful
  • Trouble breathing
  • Learning disabilities or behavioral problems
  • Curvature of the spine (scoliosis). This can cause one hip to rise higher than the other.
  • Breathing problems that may eventually require the use of a ventilator

By age 12, most children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy must use a wheelchair to get around. The disease also damages the heart and the muscles needed to breathe, which can be life threatening.

Becker Muscular Dystrophy

The symptoms of Becker muscular dystrophy are similar to those of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But Becker muscular dystrophy starts later -- around the teen years. It also develops much more slowly.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool