Anyone can be affected. Contrary to popular belief, muscular dystrophy is not exclusively a childhood disorder. While some types of muscular dystrophy are first evident in infancy or early childhood, other types may not appear until later in life.
Principal symptoms include progressive muscle wasting, weakness, and loss of function. Common signs include poor balance with frequent falls, difficulty walking, limited range of movement, and drooping eyelids. Please refer to the different types of neuromuscular disorders for more specific information.
Most neuromuscular disorders are caused by genetic mutations. These mutations can be passed on from generation to generation, through a parent’s DNA, or they can occur in a single individual due to a spontaneous mutation.
While many neuromuscular disorders are genetic, some are not. Conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barré syndrome are autoimmune disorders, caused by a problem with the person’s immune system.
The severity and progression will vary depending on the exact diagnosis and the individual. Most neuromuscular disorders are progressive, causing the muscles to gradually weaken over time. People diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder may lose the ability to do things that are often taken for granted, like brushing your own teeth, feeding yourself, or climbing stairs. Some people will lose the ability to walk or even breathe on their own.
Medical interventions have increased the life span and improved the quality of life for many people living with neuromuscular disorders. These interventions focus on treating or delaying symptoms, enhancing physical mobility and social interactions, and preventing heart and lung complications.
Identification of the specific genes responsible for the various types of neuromuscular disorders has led to extensive research on gene and molecular therapy, but all such treatments are still in development. Learn more about research
For some autoimmune disorders, such as myasthenia gravis, there are drug therapies that can be very effective for treating or reversing symptoms.
There’s a lot you can do. For example:
Muscular Dystrophy Canada is a volunteer-driven organization and relies on dedicated, enthusiastic, diverse and dynamic people to help us raise money to fund research and programs to support people affected by neuromuscular disorders.