Pediatric neurologist Dr. Daniel Katz of Cotton-O'Neil Clinic says a piece of muscle is an amazingly intricate thing. But when a person has muscular dystrophy, the muscles don't work well.
Dr. Katz says it can be for a variety of reasons. He says sometimes it's a problem with the muscle itself, sometimes it's the connection between the nerve and the muscle, sometimes it's the actual nerve, sometimes it's the signal from the spine, and the list goes on.
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of more than forty diseases. Different diseases strike at different ages; some are more common in boys than girls. Because the forms can affect people so differently, diagnosis can take time.
Dr. Katz says muscular dystrophy could show up as a delay in development with muscle coordination as a child, or it may show up later as acquiring weakness.
While there is no cure for MD, Dr. Katz says doctors know what complications each form is likely to bring, and they watch for and treat those. For example, weakness may mean braces or wheelchairs, and some patients may be susceptible to breathing problems and pneumonia.
Though much is still unknown about the muscular dystrophies, Dr. Katz says much has been discovered. He says research into MD has brought a lot of understanding in how the whole motor system of the body works, how the system from the brain to the spinal cord to the nerves to the muscles works.
With that understanding comes hope for better treatments, and cures, for MD and more.
You can join the fight against muscular dystrophy by watching the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. It begins Sunday, Sept. 5, following 13 News at 10 and runs through 6 p.m. Labor Day.
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Source: www.ninde.nih.gov (National Institute of Neurological Disorders Web site) contributed to this report.