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Differences between Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy? Print E-mail
Written by Glenn Rosenberg   
Monday, 21 September 2009
There are many differences between multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscular dystrophy (MD). However, often people confuse the two because their initials are so close, and the diseases may have similar results.

 One of the easiest telling points in distinguishing multiple sclerosis from MD is that MS rarely occurs in young people. Age of onset tends to occur between 20 and 40.

Most patients with MD conversely are affected in childhood, or adolescence.

Myotonic MD may not surface until early adulthood. Progress of myotonic MD is much slower than the more common types affecting children. Survival rates with a patient with myotonic MD may be as much as 20 years after diagnosis.

All forms of MD are genetically inherited. Genetic links to multiple sclerosis have not been clearly established. As well, mild forms of multiple sclerosis do not necessarily affect life expectancy. It is true that some forms of aggressive MS can almost immediately result in death. However, now, many people with less aggressive MS live healthy and active lives.

MD tends not to be this gentle on the body. Most forms of muscular dystrophy will ultimately cause death as the muscles of the body break down and become atrophied. This diagnosis is a very sad one, as children who appeared healthy before can suddenly begin to lose the ability to use their muscles to walk, stand or eat. Often MD diagnosed in childhood leads to death within a few years.

Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system, while MD affects only the muscular system of the body. Affected nerves can then result in movement difficulties as the disease progresses. Muscles become harder to move without pain, and from disuse, can atrophy.

Those with multiple sclerosis often suffer from attacks, which can temporarily impair movement and cause great pain. Movement capability may recover after attacks. This differs from the progressive deterioration of muscle that characterizes MD. Although MS can be called progressive, early attacks may not initially result in much impairment of movement on a permanent basis. Frequency and length of attacks may determine overall outcome and survival rates for those with MS.

Though the diseases are different, both multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy are alike in that neither is curable. Both diseases can be significantly devastating. More often, however, muscular dystrophy is linked to very early death, where severe forms of multiple sclerosis are more rare.


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