Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's currently no cure for any form of muscular dystrophy. Research into gene therapy may eventually provide treatment to stop the progression of some types of muscular dystrophy. Current treatment is designed to help prevent or reduce deformities in the joints and the spine and to allow people with muscular dystrophy to remain mobile as long as possible.

Medications

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may help improve muscle strength and delay the progression of certain types of muscular dystrophy. But prolonged use of these types of drugs can weaken bones and increase fracture risk.

Therapy

Several different 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 exercises. Muscular dystrophy can restrict the flexibility and mobility of joints. Limbs often draw inward and become fixed in that position. One goal of physical therapy is to provide regular range-of-motion exercises to keep joints as flexible as possible.
  • Mobility aids. Braces can provide support for weakened muscles and help keep muscles and tendons stretched and flexible, slowing the progression of contractures. Other devices — such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs — can helfp 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 rely on a ventilator — a machine that forces air in and out of their lungs.

Surgical and other procedures

Surgical remedies are an option for several of the problems common to muscular dystrophy, such as:

  • Contractures. Tendon surgery can loosen joints drawn inward by contractures.
  • Scoliosis. Surgery may also be needed to correct a sideways curvature of the spine that can make breathing more difficult.
  • Heart problems. Some people who have heart problems related to muscular dystrophy may be helped by the insertion of a pacemaker, which prompts the heart to beat more regularly.
Jan. 18, 2012

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