Anyone. Neuromuscular disorders can impact anyone at any age. While some types of muscular dystrophy are first evident in infancy or early childhood, other types may not appear until later in life.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of neuromuscular disorder. However, some common symptoms include progressive muscle wasting, weakness and loss of function. Common signs include poor balance with frequent falls, difficulty walking, limited range of movement, and drooping eyelids.
Find more information on a specific neuromuscular disorder.
Most neuromuscular disorders are caused by genetic mutations. These mutations can be passed on from generation to generation through a parent’s DNA, or they can occur in a single individual due to a spontaneous mutation.
There are a few neuromuscular disorders which are not genetic. Conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barré syndrome are autoimmune disorders, caused by a problem with the person’s immune system.
No. They are not contagious.
The severity and progression of muscular dystrophy varies depending on the exact diagnosis and the individual. Most neuromuscular disorders are progressive, causing the muscles to gradually weaken over time. People diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder may lose the ability to do things that are often taken for granted, like brushing your own teeth, feeding yourself, or climbing stairs. Some people will lose the ability to walk or even breathe on their own.
Medical interventions have increased the life span and improved the quality of life for many people living with neuromuscular disorders. These interventions focus on treating or delaying symptoms, enhancing physical mobility and social interactions, and preventing heart and lung complications.
There’s a lot you can do. For example, educate yourself and others to raise awareness about muscular dystrophy. Be sensitive and understanding if your friend is experiencing physical limitations. Let your friend know you care, and ask directly about the best ways for you to be helpful.
Think about inclusive activities and accessibility when making plans to go out. For example, call ahead to ensure that the restaurant or venue is fully wheelchair accessible.
Muscular Dystrophy Canada is a volunteer-driven organization and relies on dedicated, enthusiastic, diverse and dynamic people to help us raise money to fund research and programs to support people affected by neuromuscular disorders.