Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Symptoms
1. Weakness of proximal muscles
The loss of muscle function begins slowly from the wastage of one set of muscles and gradually progresses to other groups of muscles in other parts of your body. Proximal muscles are the first to be affected by this disease. Proximal muscles are those which are closest to the trunk. These first become weak and then start degenerating. This disease affects small boys and the disease becomes visible between the ages of 2 to 6 years. This disease starts slowly but the progress is rapid. Walking becomes very difficult and by the age the boy reaches his adolescent years, he is on a wheelchair.
2. Weakness of hip and thigh muscles
Duchenne muscular dystrophy usually starts showing itself in full vigor when the child turns three or four years old. There are times when the symptoms of muscular dystrophy are identified earlier but often they are overlooked. During the time when the child is of three or four years of age, there is a gradual weakening of the hip and thigh muscles. The child may have difficulty in walking. His movement may also slow down. It may even be noticed that the child is unable to maintain his gait and remain steady or coordinated. He may even fall without any reason. Climbing up the stairs also becomes difficult for the child. This leads to a drastic change in the gait of the child. The child will be found to waddle with his feet placed apart. Walking on his toes will allow the line of gravitational pull to fall outside his vertebral column and he will be able to walk more steadily than before.
3. Weakness of shoulder muscles
When the child experiences pain or difficulty in lifting his hands over his head, this is a sure sign of the weakening of his shoulder muscles. Many times parents overlook these symptoms thinking it to be mere tiredness. However, this is actually the onset of a serious and life threatening disease like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Fat accumulation in the muscles affected with this disease can mask the wastage of muscles. However, the negative effects of the disease continues with the tendon reflexes diminishing slowly and finally no reflexes of the tendons can be traced.
4. Mental retardation
Duchenne muscular dystrophy can even lead to making your child mentally disabled. However, when you notice a slight deterioration in the intelligence level of the child, you must consult a doctor to check whether he has been affected with this grave disease. Learning disabilities of the child should be taken seriously by parents and should not be thought of as pranks played by your child. These symptoms often go unnoticed and pave the way for the development of duchenne muscular dystrophy.
5. Frequent infections and pneumonia
If your child has frequent bouts of infection and pneumonia, you should immediately consult a doctor. These could be early symptoms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The progress of this disease is fast and these problems occur only when the lung muscles and the muscles of the diaphragm weaken under the influence of the disease. Intense breathing problems in your child are also a symptom of the onset of the disease.
6. Fluctuating heart beat
The heart muscles are also affected when this disease affects a person. The muscles are weakened and a change in the heart beat of the person can be noticed. This shows the gradual progression of the disease in the body of the individual. This leads to many heart problems and this becomes one of the most important reasons why people with this disease do not live beyond their teens.
7. Enlarged calf muscles
Enlarging of the calf muscles due to the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy is known as pseudohypertrophic. The lack of body movement causes the calf muscles to become swollen with deposits of fats and fibrous tissues all around the calf area. Inactivity is the reason why there is a fat accumulation in the muscles which further hinder the movement of the individual and make the situation worse.
8. Look for Gower’s sign
For individuals affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the weakening of the various muscles in various parts of their body leads to a change in their walk. This leads to a change in their walking style altogether. As the disease progresses, you may find the child may use his hands to help his body get up from a sitting or lying position. The posture will look as if he is trying to climb up his own legs, using various parts of the leg for leverage. This is known as Gower’s sign. This can get grave if not noticed and shown to a doctor as soon as early symptoms are seen.
9. Constant sense of fatigue
The person affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy may see symptoms of constant fatigue. Even when the child affected with the disease has not performed any physical movements, he would face fatigue of high intensity. If you see your child getting tired very fast after doing small activities, consult a specialist and find out if he is affected with the rare disease of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Keep a check on your child’s energy levels to notice the early symptoms.