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Understanding Muscular Dystrophy -- Symptoms

Becker Muscular Dystrophy continued...

The first signs of Becker muscular dystrophy may be trouble walking fast, running, and climbing stairs. Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle weakness that starts in the pelvis, shoulders, hips, and thighs
  • Difficulty learning how to walk
  • Waddling gait
  • Walking on the toes
  • Larger-than-normal calves
  • Muscle cramps when exercising
  • Trouble lifting objects above waist height because of shoulder and arm weakness
  • Heart and breathing problems (later in life)

Often children with Becker muscular dystrophy can walk. As they get older they may need to use a cane or wheelchair to get around.

Myotonic Dystrophy

The symptoms of myotonic dystrophy may be obvious from birth or they can develop later -- during the teenage or adult years.

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.

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