Muscular Dystrophy | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of muscular dystrophy?

The most common symptom of all types of muscular dystrophy is muscle weakness that gets worse over time.

Each type of muscular dystrophy has its own specific symptoms:


  • frequent falls
  • having trouble getting up from a lying or sitting position
  • a waddling walk
  • difficulty running and jumping
  • enlarged calf muscles


  • walking on tiptoes
  • frequent falls
  • muscle cramping
  • later onset of symptoms than Duchenne


  • trouble with hand movements and extending the fingers
  • difficulty climbing stairs and walking
  • inability to stand on the heels or hop


  • muscle weakness that begins in the upper arms and lower legs
  • decreased movement in the spine, knees, elbows, ankles and back of neck
  • elbows locked in a flexed position
  • rigid spine


  • weakening of the muscles around the eyes and mouth
  • slanted shoulders or shoulder blades that looked "winged"
  • trouble speaking, swallowing or chewing
  • hearing problems
  • a curve in the spine


  • weakness around the hips that spreads to the legs, shoulders and neck
  • frequent falls
  • a waddle when walking
  • rigid spine

Myotonic dystrophy:

  • an inability to relax muscles after contracting them
  • having a long, thin face and neck
  • trouble swallowing
  • cataracts, drooping eyelids and other vision problems
  • drowsiness
  • in infants, trouble swallowing or breathing, lack of reflexes, muscle weakness in the face and delayed motor skills

What are the causes of muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is usually an inherited condition caused by a mutation in one of the genes that affect proteins in the muscles. This mutation causes the protein to be missing or altered so it doesn’t work correctly. Each type of muscular dystrophy is caused by a different mutation.

In some cases, the mutation is not inherited from a parent, but occurs spontaneously. In this case, the mutation can then be passed on future generations.