Answers to frequently asked questions


Who can be affected by muscular dystrophy or related muscle diseases?

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.

What are the symptoms?

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.

What causes a neuromuscular disorder?

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.

Are neuromuscular disorders contagious?


What is the prognosis?

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.

What treatment options are currently available?

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.

Physical and occupational therapy, proper respiratory care, exercise, assistive devices, and orthopedic surgery may help to preserve muscle function and enhance quality of life.

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.

What can I do to help a friend or family member diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder?

There’s a lot you can do. For example:

  • Educate yourself and others to raise awareness about neuromuscular disorders.
  • Be sensitive and understanding if your friend is experiencing physical limitations. Let your friend know you care, and ask directly about the best ways for you to be helpful.
  • Think about inclusive activities and accessibility when making plans to go out. For example, call ahead to ensure that the restaurant or venue is fully wheelchair accessible.
  • Get in touch with your local Muscular Dystrophy Canada office or Community Volunteer Chapter. Speaking with compassionate, informed volunteers and staff can provide valuable information and support.
How do I get involved with Muscular Dystrophy Canada?

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.

We need you! Donate or volunteer today!

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