Muscular dystrophy is usually caused by a gene mutation and leads to progressive damage and the loss of muscle cells in your body. It includes over 150 types of degenerative muscle diseases acting in different ways, but almost all of them begin with some mild symptoms that, if left unnoticed, slowly progress with time.
We gathered 8 most common warning signs of muscle degeneration you should never ignore.
8. Pain and stiffness in muscles
The loss of muscle cells usually causes a feeling of weakness in your muscles. So if you have problems when rising from a chair, brushing your hair, lifting an object, or dropping things on the floor, you probably suffer from muscular dystrophy.
You may also notice contractures, reduced flexibility, and frequent muscle pain indicating that something’s wrong with your muscles. Along with that, symptoms such as prolonged spasms and the stiffening and tightness of arm and leg muscles may be signs of myotonia, a serious condition that requires medical treatment.
7. Enlarged calves
Enlarged calf muscles may be one of the signs of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This disease usually occurs at an early age in boys and worsens very quickly.
If you suffer from the Duchenne disorder, your calf muscles are often affected in the first place because they are used a lot when you try to stabilize your body. In this case, the original muscles eventually get replaced by fat and scar tissue.
6. Curved spine
If your muscles are not strong enough to hold your spine straight, you may suffer from a poor posture that can lead to scoliosis with time. Due to this condition, your spine curves to either the left or the right side so that your internal organs change their position.
Scoliosis usually presents itself in teenagers and it’s more often diagnosed in females than males. The disease may have many negative effects on your health including headaches and constant leg pain.
5. Breathing problems
In severe cases of scoliosis, progressive muscle weakness can affect your chest muscles associated with the process of breathing. Although you may not feel shortness of breath itself, you may experience some problems that indicate poor respiratory function like headaches, difficulty concentrating, and nightmares.
Weak chest muscles make it difficult for you to cough, leading to an increased risk of a serious respiratory infection. So if not treated properly, a simple cold can quickly progress to pneumonia.
4. Speech, chewing, and swallowing difficulties
Eating problems including the loss of the ability to chew food or to swallow it, coughing, choking, or a muffled voice after eating may be the first signs of Kennedy’s disease. This disease may present itself at any age, but it most commonly develops in middle adult life.
Along with eating difficulties, you may experience some other symptoms such as changes in speech, a nasal voice, and even complete atrophy of facial, jaw, and tongue muscles. All of them require immediate medical treatment.
3. Heart problems
In several forms of muscular dystrophy, progressive changes in the functioning of the heart may occur. These changes are called cardiomyopathy and you may have no symptoms of it at an early stage, although some people experience shortness of breath, tiredness, or leg swelling.
However, due to this disorder, your heart muscle can’t work as perfectly as it’s supposed to work. That’s why you may acquire symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, fainting, and dizziness with time.
In addition to muscle wasting, people who have myotonic dystrophy often suffer from various eye problems. These problems include weakness in the eye muscles, weepy eyes, low eye pressure, and cataracts.
A cataract is the most common sign of muscular dystrophy. It refers to a clouding of the lens inside your eye and typically leads to blurry vision, faded colors, trouble with bright lights, and night vision problems.
1. Balding and infertility in men
Some men with myotonic dystrophy also go through hormonal changes. Such a hormonal imbalance typically causes early balding in the front part of a man’s scalp that often develops during their 20s or 30s.
The endocrine disorder may also cause impotence and testicular atrophy in men. As a rule, this condition leads to infertility, or the inability to have children.
Bonus: How to treat muscular dystrophy?
Although there is no actual cure for muscular degeneration, you can still do some simple things to keep your muscles strong and healthy:
- Exercise regularly. Since your muscles go through the process of gradual weakening, one of the best ways to slow it down is to work out on a daily basis. Regular low-intensity physical activitiesand stretching will help you stimulate your body and build muscles naturally.
- Eat more foods that are rich in vitamins E and D. If you suffer from muscular weakness, eat more salmon, sardines, shrimp, cheese, eggs, almonds, avocados, broccoli, and olive oil.
- Use turmeric powder when cooking. This old Indian spice with a powerful compound called curcumin may be useful in preventing and treating muscle wasting.
- Drink green tea instead of other beverages. According to some studies, drinking about 7 cups of green tea per day may help slow down the deterioration of muscle tissue by combating oxidative stress in your muscles.
- Add baking soda to your bath. Due to its alkaline nature, this substance can protect your muscles and remove aches, pains, and inflammation in them.
If you noticed any of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is see your doctor.
Do you know any ways treat muscular dystrophy? Share your opinion on the topic with us in the comments section below. Stay healthy!
Illustrated by Ekaterina Gapanovich for BrightSide.me