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Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition and a neuromuscular disorder that weakens the body’s muscles over time. Missing or flawed genetic information means the body does not make the proteins it needs to build and maintain healthy muscles.
Fatty tissue replaces the muscles as they break down. Depending on the type of muscular dystrophy, the damaged muscles may mean a child will lose the ability to perform certain functions, such as walking, sitting upright, breathing easily, using the hands or moving the arms and legs. These symptoms can lead to secondary health problems, including weakened heart and lung function.
Signs of muscular dystrophy can appear in infancy or in the late teen years. The types of muscular dystrophy that affect children are:
Early signs of muscular dystrophy include frequent falling, a delay in learning to walk and difficulty getting up from a sitting or lying down position. Common muscular dystrophy symptoms include:
Doctors at Riley at IU Health perform the following exams and tests to diagnose muscular dystrophy:
Treatments for muscular dystrophy focus on maximizing your child’s ability to function at home, at school and in the community and avoiding deformities caused by muscle weakness. Treatments include:
When your child comes to Riley at IU Health, he or she will receive access to advanced muscular dystrophy care and treatments through our pediatric muscular dystrophy and mitochondrial disease programs sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
A team of neurologists and other pediatric specialists—including experts in genetics, pulmonology, heart care, physical and occupational therapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, orthopedics and nutrition—will care for your child and educate you about how to provide the best support at home.
View these links to discover support groups and resources for muscular dystrophies.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This website from the National Institutes of Health provides information about clinical trials for muscular dystrophy. Talk to your child’s doctor about participating in specific studies.
MDA provides families with information and resources to manage life with muscular dystrophy.
The neurology team at Riley at IU Health works closely with MDA and many other muscular dystrophy researchers. This gives your child access to the latest clinical trials.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.