Duchenne muscular dystrophy


Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder that involves muscle weakness, which quickly gets worse.

Alternative Names

Pseudohypertrophic muscular dystrophy; Muscular dystrophy - Duchenne type


Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a form of muscular dystrophy that worsens quickly. Other muscular dystrophies (including Becker's muscular dystrophy) get worse much more slowly.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a defective gene for dystrophin (a protein in the muscles). However, it often occurs in people without a known family history of the condition.

Because of the way the disease is inherited, boys are affected, not girls. The sons of females who are carriers of the disease (women with a defective gene but no symptoms themselves) each have a 50% chance of having the disease. The daughters each have a 50% chance of being carriers.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy occurs in about 1 out of every 3,600 male infants. Because this is an inherited disorder, risks include a family history of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.


Symptoms usually appear before age 6 and may appear as early as infancy. They may include:

Exams and Tests

A complete nervous system (neurological), heart, lung, and muscle exam may show:

Tests may include:


There is no known cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Treatment aims to control symptoms to improve quality of life.

Steroid drugs can slow the loss of muscle strength. They may be started when the child is diagnosed or when muscle strength begins to decline.

Other treatments include:

However, the effects of these treatments have not been proven. Stem cells and gene therapy may be used in the future.

Activity is encouraged. Inactivity (such as bedrest) can make the muscle disease worse. Physical therapy may be helpful to maintain muscle strength and function. Speech therapy is often needed.

Other treatments may include:

Several new treatments are being studied in trials.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See muscular dystrophy - support group. The Muscular Dystrophy Association is an excellent source of information on this disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Duchenne muscular dystrophy leads to quickly worsening disability. Death usually occurs by age 25, typically from lung disorders.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Genetic counseling is advised if there is a family history of the disorder. Duchenne muscular dystrophy can be detected with about 95% accuracy by genetic studies performed during pregnancy.


Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Muscular dystrophies. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 608.

Review Date: 2/1/2012
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Benjamin Seckler, MD, Diagnostic Radiologist, Poughkeepsie, NY, and President of Charley's Fund; and Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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