Muscular Dystrophy

There are many different types of muscular dystrophy (MD), a neuromuscular disorder that causes progressive (worsening) muscle weakness. At Allegheny Health Network Neuroscience Institute, we provide expert diagnosis and treatment services for all forms of muscular dystrophy.

Our leading experts in neuromuscular care provide the full spectrum of services, including genetic counseling, the latest therapies, and rehabilitative care. Our goal is to help you improve your functional abilities and manage your symptoms over time.

Muscular dystrophy symptoms

In some forms of muscular dystrophy, symptoms show up early, such as during infancy or childhood. Other types of muscular dystrophy don’t appear until middle age.

The type and severity of symptoms may vary depending on the specific form of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormally large calves
  • A curved spine
  • Difficulty moving, such as having problems climbing stairs or getting up from a chair
  • An enlarged heart
  • Legs or arms turning inward, in a fixed position
  • Muscle weakness that worsens over time
  • Repeated falls
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

Diagnosing muscular dystrophy

A complete neurological examination is the first step to an accurate diagnosis. Your physician will also talk to you about your symptoms and your medical and family history. Muscular dystrophy is an inherited condition, which means it can be passed down among families.

At AHN, you have access to the latest diagnostic tests. Your physician may order one or more of these tests to provide a precise diagnosis:

  • Electromyogram (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity of muscles.
  • Nerve conduction studies: A nerve conduction velocity test measures the nerves’ ability to send electrical signals. We often perform it along with an EMG to help determine whether symptoms are related to your nerves or muscles.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests that show high levels of the enzyme creatine kinase may indicate muscle disease.
  • Genetic tests: These tests look for certain genetic mutations that can cause muscular dystrophy.
  • Muscle biopsy: A physician removes a tiny piece of muscle for further analysis in a laboratory.

Get expert muscular dystrophy treatment at Allegheny Health Network

Researchers have not yet found a cure for muscular dystrophy. Our specialists work with you to develop a treatment plan that improves your symptoms and meets your changing needs over time. This approach provides a high level of personalized care.

We treat muscular dystrophy using a range of medications and rehabilitative therapies, including:

  • Medication: Your physician will help determine which medications would most benefit you. Certain medications, such as prednisone, can provide short-term relief for muscle weakness. Medication may also help slow muscle damage and support respiratory function.
  • Physical therapy: Certain exercises or activities may strengthen muscles. Physical therapy can help you move and complete daily activities more easily. Our knowledgeable, caring physical therapists customize a plan to your needs.
  • Speech or occupational therapy: Our specially trained speech and occupational therapists can help you relearn how to complete daily activities that have become difficult.
  • Orthopaedic devices: Devices such as braces support you in everyday movements and help prevent injuries.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-8850.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.