Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy patients often experience fatigue as a result of muscle weakness. This can be acute (such as feeling tired after a task) or chronic (feeling tired all of the time, regardless of activity level). Fatigue can adversely affect mood, attention span, memory, thinking, and communication skills.
Scoliosis, an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, affects many patients with MD. It is caused by weakness in the muscles supporting the spinal column. In most cases, scoliosis develops after patients lose the ability to stand and walk. The occurrence of scoliosis varies widely in different types of MD.
Some types of MD can cause weakness in the muscles of the chest and diaphragm that are involved in breathing and coughing. This can make breathing difficult, especially at night when breathing is suppressed. Patients with respiratory weakness may feel short of breath, more fatigued, or have difficulty concentrating.
Heart dysfunction and heart disease are commonly encountered in several types of muscular dystrophy. The most common problems are cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms as a result of electrical conduction issues in the heart), and heart failure (the inability of the heart to pump blood adequately).
Several MD types can affect the muscles that control focusing vision, controlling how much light reaches the back of the eye, and eye movement, all of which can make it difficult for patients to see. Some types of muscular dystrophy also can make patients more likely to develop cataracts.
The cause of learning disabilities associated with MD is not well understood. It is thought that the same mutations that cause muscle weakness may also interfere with normal brain function. Some of the proteins that are faulty in muscular dystrophy patients also have important functions in the brain.
Patients with MD may experience depression, which is a serious mood disorder in which people feel a sense of sadness and lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Patients may experience irritability, mood swings, increased frustration, and lower self-esteem. Depression can significantly interfere with daily activities at home, at work, and with relationships.