Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms

Muscular dystrophy refers to a class of genetic disorders characterized by progressive muscle weakness and loss of muscular control. Different types of muscular dystrophy may affect different muscle groups. Patients often have difficulty walking and may have problems with muscle control in other tasks, such as dressing or brushing their teeth.

As muscles weaken, many patients experience muscle spasms, which are  twitches or cramps that may be painful and also make fine muscle control more difficult.

A summary of other muscular dystrophy symptoms follows:


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 the time, regardless of activity level).


Muscle weakness in the muscles of the torso can make it difficult for patients to hold their spine in alignment. This can lead to scoliosis, which is an abnormal sideways bend or curvature of the spine.

Breathing problems

Some types of muscular dystrophy can cause weakness in the muscles that control breathing — 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. They may have headaches upon waking or have difficulty waking up.

Problems with the heart

Some types of muscular dystrophy can cause the muscles of the heart to become weaker, a condition known as cardiomyopathy. This makes it hard for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. Patients might have abnormal heart rhythms, which can lead to heart failure. Patients might also feel short of breath, dizzy, or have chest pains. Swelling in the legs or abdomen can also be a sign of heart problems.

Vision problems

Some types of muscular dystrophy 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 — milky occlusions in the lens of the eye that block vision.

Learning disabilities

Some types of muscular dystrophy also can cause learning disabilities or cognitive problems. Children may have dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia.


Patients with muscular dystrophy may experience anxiety and depression. Depression may manifest as loss of enjoyment or loss of interest in hobbies or activities that previously were enjoyed. Patients may experience irritability, mood swings, and increased frustration. Lower self-esteem, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, also may be signs of depression.


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