Muscular Dystrophy

At Beaumont, muscular dystrophy and other neurological conditions are treated by a dynamic and responsive group of neuroscientists dedicated to providing the best available patient care with a family-centric and compassionate approach. Beaumont is ranked among the nation’s best hospitals for neurosurgery and neurology according to U.S. News & World Report.

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a broad term that describes a genetic (inherited) disorder of the muscles. Muscular dystrophy causes the muscles in the body to become very weak. The muscles break down and are replaced with fatty deposits over time.

Other health problems commonly associated with muscular dystrophy include the following:

  • Heart problems
  • Scoliosis. A lateral, or sideways, curvature and rotation of the back bones (vertebrae), giving the appearance that the person is leaning to one side.
  • Obesity

The most common forms of muscular dystrophy are Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Becker muscular dystrophy. The two forms are very similar, but Becker muscular dystrophy is less severe than DMD. Girls are rarely affected by either of these two forms of muscular dystrophy.

What Causes Muscular Dystrophy?

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease which means it is inherited. Our genes determine our traits, such as eye color and blood type. Genes are contained in the cells of our bodies on stick-like structures called chromosomes. There are normally 46 chromosomes in each cell of our body, or 23 pairs. The first 22 pairs are shared in common between males and females, while the last pair determine gender and are called the sex chromosome pair: females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by an X-linked recessive gene. "X-linked" means that the gene causing the trait or the disorder is located on the X chromosome. Genes on the X chromosome can be recessive or dominant, and their expression in females and males is not the same because the genes on the Y chromosome do not exactly pair up with the genes on the X. X-linked recessive genes are expressed in females only if there are two copies of the gene (one on each X chromosome). However, for males there only needs to be one copy of an X-linked recessive gene in order for the trait or disorder to be expressed. For example, a woman can carry a recessive gene on one of the X chromosomes unknowingly, and pass it on to a son, who will express the trait or disease.

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