Becker muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that results in
your muscles becoming damaged and weakened over time, with eventual loss of
muscle tissue (atrophy). If you have this condition, you can expect to begin experiencing
problems walking during your teen years. Becker muscular dystrophy usually
affects boys, with symptoms appearing between ages 5 and 15. There is more than
one type of muscular dystrophy, and Becker is similar to another type known as Duchenne.
Becker is less severe and less common.
Are the Symptoms of Becker Muscular Dystrophy?
Symptoms usually begin during childhood, but the condition may
not become obvious for a number of years. Symptoms typically include:
- delays in walking and running for young children
- unexplained clumsiness
- cramps during exercise
- difficulty participating in sports at school
- weak muscles near your torso
- enlarged calf muscles
- difficulty lifting weights and climbing stairs
- falling and finding it hard to get up again
- heart problems
- learning and behavioral difficulties
- eventually, loss of the ability to walk
Most people with the condition can walk until at least age 16,
but for some people, the disease develops later in life. Those who develop the
disease later might be able to walk until their 20s or, in some cases, their 40s.
Females generally experience much milder symptoms, if any.
Causes Becker Muscular Dystrophy?
The condition is caused by abnormality of the gene that is
responsible for making a protein called dystrophin. Dystrophin helps keep
muscle cells intact. Without this protein, your muscles can’t contract
properly. You may inherit the abnormal dystrophin gene, or it may appear
Typically, when a women inherits an abnormal dystrophin gene she
also gets a normal gene from her other parent. This means she has a healthy
gene making enough of the protein dystrophin to defend her from most of the
effects of the disease.
Is at Risk for Becker Muscular Dystrophy?
The disease almost always affects males, though it can occur in
females. You’re at a higher risk if you have relatives with the condition.
Becker Muscular Dystrophy
Your doctor will examine you thoroughly, looking for deformed
muscles and bones, abnormal heart rhythms, and muscle loss. Your doctor may
order a number of tests, including:
- blood tests to measure the levels of enzymes
released from damaged muscles
- electrical stimulation of nerves to measure your
- a muscle tissue sample to check for signs of
- gene analysis to look for an abnormal dystrophin
- tests of your heart and lung function
- X-rays of your spine
Becker Muscular Dystrophy
There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Treatment aims to
support you and improve your quality of life.
You may be given steroids. Steroids may help some people continue
walking for longer than they would without treatment. Steroids reduce
inflammation and protect muscle mass and function.
Sometimes, due to Becker muscular dystrophy, your muscles may
become permanently shortened, or contracted, and surgery may be necessary to release
and lengthen them.
If your spine becomes deformed, you may also need surgery to
If you have heart problems, you may need a pacemaker to regulate
your heartbeat. In the case of respiratory difficulties, you may need to use
special equipment to help you breathe normally.
You may be offered a number of different therapies to help you
function in your everyday life, including:
- Speech therapy: This treatment can help in the
later stages of muscular dystrophy if weak muscles are making speaking or
swallowing difficult for you.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy programs can
help you remain mobile, stretch your tight muscles, and ensure that you don’t
damage your joints. You may also learn ways to limit your energy use so that
you don’t become overtired.
- Occupational therapy: This therapy can help you
cope with everyday activities. You’ll learn to use adaptations in your home and
special equipment to help you carry out essential tasks. An occupational
therapist will also assess your need for mobility aids such as wheelchairs and
- Recreational therapy: This type of therapy
focuses on helping you to take part in educational and leisure activities.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Becker muscular dystrophy typically gets worse over time and
reduces life expectancy. The majority of people diagnosed with it live between
40 and 50 years. The outlook is different for each individual because the
disease can vary in its severity. Heart problems and breathing difficulties are
the major complications for people with this condition.
Muscular Dystrophy and Family Planning
If you have relatives with Becker muscular dystrophy, you should
seek genetic counseling if you’re thinking of starting a family. This is
important whether you are male or female, as women can carry the defective gene
without having the condition. A specialist can help you assess the risk of
having a child with the condition and explain the various tests and choices
available to you.