What are common symptoms of duchenne muscular dystrophy?

Symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) are usually noticed in boys between 1 to 6 years of age. There is a steady decline in muscle strength between the ages of 6 and 11 years. By age 10, braces may be needed for walking. By age 13, most boys with DMD are using a wheelchair full-time.
 
The signs and symptoms include:
 
  • Taking longer to learn to sit, stand, or walk on own, which is known as delayed motor development. The average age for walking in boys with DMD is 18 months.
  • Having a waddling walk and difficulty climbing stairs or running.
  • Difficulty getting up from the floor. Children may walk their hands up their legs to stand which is known as the Gower maneuver.
  • Enlarged calf muscles due to the calf muscle cells being replaced by fat and connective tissue (pseudohypertrophy). This may also cause calf pain.
  • Muscle weakness first affecting the muscles of the hips, pelvic area, thighs and shoulders, and later the skeletal (voluntary) muscles in the arms, legs and trunk.
  • Tight or rigid joints (also known as contractures) may develop as muscle loss progresses. If not treated, these will become severe, causing discomfort and restricting mobility and flexibility. Contractures can affect the knees, hips, feet, elbows, wrists and fingers.
  • Scoliosis may develop within several years of full-time wheelchair use.
  • By the early teens, the respiratory and heart muscles are also affected.
  • Breathing problems due to weakness of the diaphragm and the other muscles around the lungs. Skeletal changes, such as scoliosis, may also increase breathing problems. Breathing problems may become life-threatening.
  • Progressive enlargement of the heart (cardiomyopathy) that stops the heart from pumping blood efficiently, and becomes life-threatening in many cases.
  • Learning and memory issues (cognitive impairment) may occur in some cases, but do not worsen as DMD progresses.
  • Communication may be more difficult for some.
  • Social behavior may be affected, as well as the ability to read facial cues.
 
 
 

Sources: 

  • “Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

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