The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of inherited genetic conditions that gradually cause the muscles to weaken, leading to an increasing level of disability.

MD is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. It often begins by affecting a particular group of muscles, before affecting the muscles more widely. Some types of MD eventually affect the heart or the muscles used for breathing, at which point the condition becomes life-threatening.

MD is caused by changes in the genes responsible for the structure and functioning of a person's muscles. The mutations cause changes in the muscle fibres that interfere with the muscles' ability to function. Over time, this causes increasing disability. The mutations are often inherited from a person's parents Treatment There's no cure for MD, but a range of treatments can help with the physical disabilities and problems that may develop.

These can include:
• mobility assistance – including exercise, physiotherapy and physical aids.
• support groups – to deal with the practical and emotional impact of MD.
• surgery – to correct postural deformities, such as scoliosis.
• medication – such as steroids to improve muscle strength, or ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers to treat heart problems.