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Physical therapy, steroid shots, surgery, and medical devices are all forms of muscular dystrophy treatments. All treatments only slow the progression of the disease and alleviate discomfort associated with it because no cure exists for the disease. The muscles of people afflicted with muscular dystrophy gradually deteriorate. Losing muscle mass can cause sufferers to have difficulty walking, standing, sitting in an upright position, and breathing. Doctors determine the best treatments based on how far the disease has progressed in destroying the muscles.
If the disease is in its early stages, the best muscular dystrophy treatment is physical therapy. Engaging in physical therapy helps an ailing patient maintain muscle tone necessary for mobility. As the muscles degenerate, joints in the arms, legs, and hips become rigid and can lock in painful positions. Exercises associated with physical therapy help keep such joints limber. Stretching is a great example of this.
Doctors may also prescribe steroids as muscular dystrophy treatments. Steroids, particularly prednisone, are common treatments because they promote the growth of muscle cells. Such medications slow muscular degeneration and afford people afflicted with muscular dystrophy the use of their muscles for a longer period of time than they would if steroids were not used. This form of treatment does have side effects however. Patients given steroids may experience weight gain and decreased bone density, consequently making them susceptible to bone fractures due to the increased strain on the joints and muscles.
The degeneration of the muscles in the upper body can prevent sufferers of muscular dystrophy from maintaining an upright position. As a result, their spine may curve at an angle that causes debilitating pain and difficulty breathing. Doctors may recommend spinal fusion as one of many possible muscular dystrophy treatments. This surgery alters the shape of the spine so that the recipient can sit upright and have full use of his or her diaphragm for respiration.
If the disease has progressed to the later stages, very few medical treatments exist to restore mobility. Although there is a paucity of muscular dystrophy treatments for patients in the terminal stages of the disease, some technological devices can provide some form of relief from the ravages of muscular dystrophy. Respiration machines facilitate breathing for patients whose respiratory muscles have diminished past the point of utility. Also, electric wheelchairs allow patients who have lost the use of their legs to still have some form of mobility.