Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's no cure for any form of muscular dystrophy. But treatment can help prevent or reduce problems in the joints and spine to allow people with muscular dystrophy to remain mobile as long as possible. Treatment options include medications, physical therapy, and surgical and other procedures.

Medications

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, which can help improve muscle strength and delay the progression of certain types of muscular dystrophy. But prolonged use of these types of drugs can cause weight gain and weaken bones, increasing fracture risk.
  • Heart medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or beta blockers, if muscular dystrophy damages the heart.

Therapy

Several types of therapy and assistive devices can improve quality and sometimes length of life in people who have muscular dystrophy. Examples include:

  • Range-of-motion and stretching exercises. Muscular dystrophy can restrict the flexibility and mobility of joints. Limbs often draw inward and become fixed in that position. Range-of-motion exercises can help to keep joints as flexible as possible.
  • Exercise. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming, can help maintain strength, mobility and general health. Some types of strengthening exercises also might be helpful. But it's important to talk to your doctor first because some types of exercise might be harmful.
  • Braces. Braces can help keep muscles and tendons stretched and flexible, slowing the progression of contractures. Braces can also aid mobility by providing support for weakened muscles.
  • Mobility aids. Canes, walkers and wheelchairs can help maintain mobility and independence.
  • Breathing assistance. As respiratory muscles weaken, a sleep apnea device may help improve oxygen delivery during the night. Some people with severe muscular dystrophy may need to use a machine that forces air in and out of their lungs (ventilator).

Surgery

Surgery may be needed to correct a spinal curvature that could eventually make breathing more difficult.

Nov. 27, 2014

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