Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic disorders that affect the muscles and cause weakness and loss of muscle mass over time. In New Zealand, it is estimated that around 2,000 people are affected by muscular dystrophy, with approximately 50 new cases diagnosed each year. While there is currently no cure for the condition, there are a variety of mobility aids that can help individuals affected by muscular dystrophy live more independently and maintain a good quality of life.
Types of Muscular Dystrophy
There are many different types of muscular dystrophy, each with its own set of symptoms and progression. Some of the most common types of muscular dystrophy include:
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: This is the most common type of muscular dystrophy and primarily affects boys. Symptoms usually begin around the age of three and include difficulty standing up, walking, and climbing stairs.
Becker Muscular Dystrophy: This type of muscular dystrophy is like Duchenne, but symptoms tend to be milder and progress more slowly.
Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy: This type of muscular dystrophy affects the muscles in the shoulders and hips and can lead to difficulty lifting the arms or getting up from a seated position.
Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy: This type of muscular dystrophy affects the muscles in the face, shoulders, and upper arms. Symptoms typically begin in the teenage years or early adulthood and can include difficulty smiling, lifting the arms, or closing the eyes.
Mobility Aids for Muscular Dystrophy
While there is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy, there are a variety of mobility aids that can help individuals with the condition maintain their independence and quality of life. Some of the most common mobility aids for muscular dystrophy include:
Wheelchairs: For individuals with muscular dystrophy who have difficulty walking or standing, a wheelchair can provide increased mobility and independence. There are a variety of different types of wheelchairs available, including manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and standing wheelchairs.
Scooters: Scooters are like wheelchairs but are designed for individuals who have some ability to walk but may tire easily or have difficulty walking long distances.
Walking Aids: For individuals with mild to moderate muscular dystrophy, walking aids such as canes or walkers can provide increased stability and support.
Home Modifications: In addition to mobility aids, home modifications such as stairlifts, ramps, and bathroom grab bars can make it easier for individuals with muscular dystrophy to navigate their homes safely and independently.
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that affects thousands of individuals in New Zealand. While there is currently no cure for the condition, there are a variety of mobility aids available that can help individuals with muscular dystrophy live more independently and maintain a good quality of life. If you or someone you know has muscular dystrophy, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about the available mobility aids and other resources that can help.