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Understanding Muscular Dystrophy -- Symptoms

Myotonic Dystrophy continued...

Like other forms of muscular dystrophy, myotonic dystrophy leads to muscle weakness that gets worse over time. But it usually affects small muscles, like those in the:

  • face
  • neck
  • hands

Symptoms of myotonic dystrophy can start at any time in a person's life. The symptoms include:

  • Weakness in the muscles of the face, arms, hands, and neck
  • Muscle stiffness (myotonia) -- difficulty relaxing the muscles after they are tightened
  • Shrinking of the muscles over time (muscle wasting)
  • Cataracts -- clouding of the eye's lens
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • Heart problems, including irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)

The type of myotonic dystrophy that begins at birth is more severe. Other forms get worse very slowly, and can take 50 or 60 years to progress.

Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy

This form of muscular dystrophy is actually a group of related conditions. It usually starts in childhood or during the teenage years.

Often the muscles that become weak first are the big muscles of the:

  • pelvis
  • shoulders
  • hips

The muscle weakness gets worse very slowly over time.

Other symptoms include:

  • Loss of muscle in affected areas
  • Back pain
  • Trouble lifting objects
  • Difficulty running
  • Fast heartbeat (palpitations) or irregular heartbeat

How serious the effects are depends on the child. Some children have only mild muscle weakness. Others are so weak they need to use a wheelchair.

In its later stages, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy can cause serious heart problems.

Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy

Usually this type of muscular dystrophy doesn't appear until the teenage years or later in life. It also gets worse very slowly. Some people may not realize they have it until they are already old.

Symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness in the face. This affects the child's ability to close the eyes and purse the lips (whistle).
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulders, upper arms, upper back, and lower legs
  • Difficulty raising the arms or lifting objects because of muscle weakness in the shoulders and back

One side of the body may be more severely affected than the other.

If your child has symptoms of any type of muscular dystrophy, see your pediatrician to see what further evaluation is needed.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on March 12, 2014

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