Muscular dystrophy is basically a whole group of diseases that are genetic which cannot be caused by injury or any activity and are not contagious.
How the disease affects our body and all body parts is variable and depends upon a lot of factors.
In the article below we will read about what exactly is muscular dystrophy and its types along with their symptoms, through which we will try to understand, does muscular dystrophy affects the brain.
1. What is Muscular Dystrophy? – Does Muscular Dystrophy Affect the Brain?
A genetic disease group that is characterized by weakness and degeneration of our muscles.
The process is ongoing and progressive and eventually affects all our skeletal muscles. Factors that differentiate between the different types include the time of onset, pattern of the affected area, and the severity observed.
What is constant across all forms is that the weakness gradually increases, so much that in some cases you might even lose the ability to walk.
There can be cases where your other body parts like the heart, lungs, endocrine glands, spine, eyes, and brain are also affected.
To actually understand the effect of Muscular Dystrophy on the brain, we need to first understand what the actual problem is, which requires a correct form of diagnosis.
This implies that before jumping to any conclusion, make sure you run a proper and thorough neuropsychological evaluation of the concerned patient.
2. How Muscles are Affected in Muscular Dystrophy?
Let us understand how muscles are actually affected by muscular dystrophy. So, each muscle is made up of fibers which have cells that are surrounded by an outer layer.
When an impulse is generated from the brain, a signal is sent through the spinal cord which goes through the nerves, which connect the nervous system to the organs of the body. This series of reactions is triggered by acetylcholine.
The membrane of the muscle fiber has a protein group called dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, these help to prevent the damage caused to muscle fibers by contraction and relaxation of the fibers.
If this membrane is leaked, however, it becomes problematic as the protein creatine kinase leaks and there is excess intake of calcium; which leads to damage to the muscle fibers which eventually die.
This is what is known as muscular dystrophy as it is at a stage where there is progressive muscular degeneration.
In easier terms, we can say that dystrophin is the protein that helps in the protection of the muscles, so due to mutation when the amount of dystrophin changes in the body which is the condition during Muscular Dystrophy; the muscles become more susceptible to damage.
3. What are the Types of Muscular Dystrophy?
3.1. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
This is the most common type of Duchenne MD, in the childhood form, which mostly occurs in boys because the inheritance is via the X chromosome.
However, girls can also experience it if they carry the defective gene. The causal agent is protein dystrophin, the lack of which causes Duchenne MD.
This comes out right up in toddler stages and leads to muscular weakness and wasting, among other symptoms like waddling gait, impaired breathing, loss of some reflexes, heart problems, and frequent falls and clumsiness.
Children suffering from this might not be able to run or jump, or even have cognitive and behavioral problems.
It has been observed that children suffering from this specifically might even have learning disabilities or some degree of mental impairment.
Also, they are not very good with any form of oral information that they receive.
However, recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval for a new drug to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy for patients between 4 to 5 years of age, which is one of the first gene therapies approved to treat this fatal disease.
3.2. Becker Muscular Dystrophy
It is less severe as compared to Duchenne MD, but related to it. It surfaces around the age of 10-11 years to 25 years.
Its effects are variable, some people can retain the strength for more years as compared to others.
Early symptoms include frequent falls, difficulty in getting up from the floor, and walking on toes.
As compared to Duchenne MD the problems in cognition and behavioral impacts are pretty less.
Although comparatively less than Duchenne MD, people with Becker MD also suffer from some kinds of psychological disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
3.3. Distal Muscular Dystrophy
A type of disease that basically affects the distant muscles, like the forearms or feet. This usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60 years.
The muscle degeneration is comparatively lesser and slower but it has the scope of spreading out.
It can impact the respiratory muscles in a pretty intense manner, so you might need a ventilator in case of distal MD. It is usually an autosomal disorder, but in some cases, it can have an infant-stage onset as well.
3.4. Myotonic Dystrophy
Another type of common MD is also known as Myotonia. It is basically the body’s inability to relax after a sudden muscle contraction.
Usually, it occurs between the ages of 20 and 30, but there are also cases of childhood-onset and even congenital onset of the same.
It can affect the central nervous system, heart, adrenal glands, and even the gastrointestinal glands. Symptoms of Myotonic MD include cardiac complications, cataracts, poor vision, weight loss, and mild cognitive impairment.
You can also experience difficulty in swallowing, early frontal baldness, and droopy eyelids.
4. To Conclude
Although research has been going on for a very long time, there have been various new developments from time to time, and to date, we can say that there are more than 50 types of muscular dystrophy.
These are distinguished based on how they affect you and which muscles or organs are specifically affected.
Another conclusion from the article is that a definitive answer to the question of whether muscular dystrophy affects the brain is affirmative but not like in a very significant manner.
Although the actual effect will vary from individual to individual as no concrete or generalized opinion can be formed, based on currently present data and research.