A brief description of DMD.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is caused by a genetic defect in the largest identified gene which codes for dystrophin. The problem in DMD is a lack of dystrophin, without which the muscle cells cannot survive. It is the most common type of Muscular Dystrophy and affects mainly boys.
The condition will not necessarily progress at the same rate for all children. Each child with DMD is an individual and should be treated as such. Generally, children appear normal at birth but, by the age of around 3 to 4 years, some children begin to show some signs of weakness.
The muscles become weaker as the child gets older and running, hopping, jumping and climbing are difficult. As more muscle cells die, the child develops a very obvious gait and falling can become more frequent just before the child loses the ability to walk independently. Long leg calipers may help at this stage. Some children begin to use a powered wheelchair between the ages of 9 to 12 years. In the teenage years, the arms, chest and neck muscles can also be affected.
At present, there does not appear to be a cure for DMD but research is continuing to find a cure or treatment for children suffering with Duchenne or the milder form, Becker Muscular Dystrophy. It should be stressed that there is still much that can be done to keep children as mobile as possible for as long as possible. Regular exercise such as swimming, stretching and physiotherapy have been found to be beneficial, as has paying attention to a healthy diet.
It is recognised that, as well as the parents and the child with Duchenne, brothers and sisters are also faced with the difficulties in the dealing with the condition. It is, therefore, important for children with DMD and their whole families to have as much information and socially integrative support as possible.