Muscular dystrophy refers a group of disorders that involve a progressive loss of muscle mass and consequent loss of strength. The causes of muscular dystrophy are often genetic. Genetic mutations that interfere with production of muscle protein required for building healthy muscles is the causative factor. A strong family history of muscular dystrophy increases its prevalence rate in the next generation.
The most common form is Duchenne muscular dystrophy which is seen to affect young boys. At present, no cure for this is evidenced in medical science except physical treatments which can slow down the progression of the disease. With the development of genetic medicine, some revolutionary changes can be expected. There is a group of diseases which can be considered under muscular dystrophy. As the disease progresses, it affects all the smooth muscles of the body and can cause problems with breathing and cardiac functions. All treatments are aimed at improving the quality of life and delay the progressiveness of the disease.
Early symptoms include:
As the disease progresses, there is
There are different types of muscular dystrophy, including the following:
» Duchenne muscular dystrophy: Most commonly found in children. It starts by the age of three to four noticed as frequent falls and changes in gait, muscle weaknesss and wasting. Usually it goes unattended in the early stages. Later the child is confined to wheel chair. Usually the disease becomes fatal due to respiratory failure.
» Becker muscular dystrophy: It is also precipitated with the same above symptoms but lifespan is more prolonged.
» Myotonic (Steinert's disease): It is the most common adult form of the disease. It is evidenced as inability to relax a muscle after contraction. Normally the facial muscles and neck muscles are affected first.
» Facioscapulohumeral (FSHD): Onset can be at almost any age but is most commonly seen during teenage years. The muscular weakness often begins in the face and shoulders. People with FSHD may sleep with their eyes slightly open and have trouble fully closing their eyelids. When an individual with FSHD raises their arms, their shoulder blades protrude like wings.
» Limb-girdle: This variant begins in childhood or teenage years and first effects the shoulder and hip muscles. Individuals with the limb-girdle muscular dystrophy might have trouble rising the front part of the foot, making tripping a common problem.
» Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy: Onset is between the ages of 40 and 70 years. Eyelids, throat, and face are first affected, followed by the shoulder and pelvis.
The genetic mutations involved in muscular dystrophy are well known and can be used to make a diagnosis. Enzyme assay, Genetic testing, Heart monitoring, Lung monitoring, Electromyography, Biopsy etc are some of the common diagnostic methods.
Treatment option in modern medicine is generally physiotherapy or general exercises, breathing exercises, use of mobility devices, use of braces which will keep the muscles and tendons in stretched position and delay their shortening. All these treatments are mainly rehabilitative. Much research activities are going on in this area like gene replacement, stem cell therapy, myeloblast transplantation etc. which can throw a ray of hope to patients.
Treatment approach to the disease is based on the fundmental principles of ayurveda. As mentioned, being a congenital disorder, the aim of treatment is not cure from the disease but slowing the progression and improving the quality of life and helping the patient to be more self dependent. A holistic method using scientifically proven drugs and combination of yoga and treatment procedures is used to achieve this. The drugs slow down the process of muscle destruction by regulating the mamsagni and the immunity system. The treatment procedures will strengthen the muscles and act on the muscle fibres. The exercises stretches, strengthens and elongates the spine, improves circulation and eliminates toxins. Breathing exercises tones up and strengthens the respiratory muscles.
The treatment has to be repeated at intervals to maintain the benefit. Internal medicines are also administered. Yoga and breathing exercises can be followed at home. The course of treatment is from 21- 28 days depending on the disease condition.
Following ayurvedic guidelines and advices under an experienced physician can benefit the sufferers of muscular dystrophy to a great extend. Amala Ayurveda offers these treatments in a cost effective manner as a solace to the sufferers.
- Dr. Indu Sasikumar, MD (Ayu.)