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Muscular dystrophy is defined as a group of genetic disorders characterized by progressive muscle wasting and weakness and characteristic microscopic changes in the muscle.
Muscular dystrophy is part of a larger group of disorders known as sympathies, meaning that something is wrong with the muscle. The primary problem in sympathies, including muscular dystrophies, is in the muscles themselves -- not the nerves that control them, the blood vessels that supply them or the bones that support them. This distinguishes dystrophies from other conditions that affect muscles.
Muscular Dystrophy is fairly easy to diagnose, based on history and physical exam, and on laboratory analysis of blood (for the presence of certain enzymes that indicate muscle is being destroyed), blood cells (for abnormalities in the gene known to be defective in these conditions), and muscle itself (for evidence of muscle abnormalities -- most of all, for a lack of the muscle protein known as dystrophic).
Two of the obvious symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy are enlarged calves and a waddling gait. Young boys with Muscular Dystrophy use the Gowers' maneuver to rise from the floor. As a boy with Muscular Dystrophy gets older, his spine curves inward. By the time he's about 12, he'll need a wheelchair at least part of the time.
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