Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) is an inherited muscle-wasting condition primarily affecting boys and men. It causes progressive weakness and wasting of skeletal and heart muscles.
BMD is similar to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) but less common and milder. It worsens at a much slower rate.
Symptoms that BMD patients can experience include:
Cramping during exercise
The initial symptoms of BMD may include cramping and reduced stamina during exercise, due to muscle weakness in the lower parts of the body.
Muscle loss in BMD usually begins in hips, the pelvic area, thighs, and shoulders. To compensate for weakening muscles, those with the disorder may walk with a waddling gait, walk on their toes or stick out their abdomen.
Over time, patients have difficulty walking, and lose their balance and coordination, leading to frequent falls. They may also have difficulty running, hopping, and jumping, lose muscle mass, and experience fatigue.
The rate of muscle degeneration varies a great deal from one person to another. While some men require a wheelchair by the time they are in their 30s, others may manage for many more years with aids such as canes.
BMD may cause only mild skeletal muscle problems but severe cardiac problems. Heart muscle weakness can result in breathlessness, fluid accumulation in the lungs, and swelling in the feet and lower legs.
Dilated cardiomyopathy — or the heart muscle becoming enlarged, weakened and incapable of pumping blood efficiently — is the most common cause of death in people with BMD.
This makes it important for doctors to monitor BMD patients closely so they can treat heart problems.
Breathing and coughing
Respiratory muscles can remain strong in BMD patients for years. But eventually they can become weaker than is optimal for breathing and for coughing to clear secretions from the respiratory tract.
BMD can cause learning difficulties, which seem to occur in three general areas: attention focusing, verbal learning, and memory and emotional interaction.
Because BMD does not affect nerves directly, touch and other senses remain normal, as does patients’ control over the smooth, or involuntary, muscles of the bladder and bowel, and sexual functions.
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