Treatment Strategies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

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Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is an incurable genetic disease that impacts the muscle tissue. It is more common in males than in females, and it affects about 1 in 3500 male births.

Noticeable symptoms of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy often appear between the ages of 3 and 6. These symptoms appear as obvious muscle weakness and muscle wasting. A person with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy commonly ends up in a wheelchair by their teenage years. Other life-threatening conditions may arise from it - including heart and respiratory complications. Although a difficult diagnosis, physical therapy can help an individual with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy reach their full potential.

What Does Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Mean?

The question, “What is DMD?” is a common one. Essentially, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by a gene mutation - specifically in the DMD gene. This gene plays a vital role in the production of the protein, dystrophin. Dystrophin offers support and protection to the muscle tissue. Individuals with DMD do not produce dystrophin. As a result, the muscles become damaged each time they are used.

Females are often carriers of the gene mutation. The inherited gene is frequently noticed in male children when they fail to reach major physical developmental milestones. For instance, the child may have difficulty learning to walk, run, or jump. Genetic testing, blood tests, and sometimes, a muscle biopsy confirm the diagnosis.

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How is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Treated?

While there is no cure, treatment options do exist to slow the progression of the disease. These Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment options focus on decreasing the symptoms. Physical Therapy plays a large role in treatment of DMD. Treatment frequently varies from person to person. The following outlines current treatment practices for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

1. Corticosteroids as Treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Corticosteroids that are prescribed for DMD patients include prednisone and deflazacort. These drugs slow the progression of the disease. They decrease muscles weakness and help improve muscle strength. In turn, they may delay the need for assistive devices, such as a wheelchair, for 2-3 years.

2. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Treatment Options include Assistive Devices

Braces, canes, and wheelchairs are eventually recommended for DMD patients. These devices help to reduce muscle damage and improve independent mobility. A physical therapist is often enlisted to help show the patient and caregiver how to use each device to their advantage properly.

3. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Physical Therapy Treatment

As aforementioned, physical therapy is often recommended, and pediatric physical therapy is an excellent option for younger patients. In fact, Duchenne muscular dystrophy physical therapy treatment is frequently a critical part of decreasing symptoms. A physical therapist focuses on active and passive exercises to improve muscular strength and prevent or slow muscle deterioration. A Physical therapist will help reduce or prevent joint contractures, work on respiratory strength and breathing patterns, improve skill development and offer recommendations an adaptive devices for the individuals environment.  Physical therapy also focuses on education for the patient and the caregiver. Individuals with DMD will often see a physical therapist throughout their entire lifetime.

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In some cases, surgery may be necessary to fix scoliosis or muscle damage. However, more research is currently underway, exploring new Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment options. For example, Exon skipping is considered one of the up and coming therapies. Yet, clinical trials continue to solidify such therapies and their uses.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Week is February 13th-18th

The week of February 13th-18th draws attention to what is DMD and its impact. The week raises awareness about a rare disease that significantly changes many parents and children's’ lives. It’s also a week where donations are encouraged as science continues to improve current treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy while exploring new treatment options. It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of DMD in addition to seeking out physical therapy treatment earlier than later.

At BetterPT, we can help you find the right physical therapist for you and your family if there is a DMD diagnosis. Using our website or app makes it easy to find a PT with specific specialization near you. That way, your family can get the best care possible - providing you and your children with the proper tools to fight muscular dystrophy conditions and receive Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment at a cost you can afford.

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