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Becker Muscular Dystrophy

What is Becker muscular dystrophy?

Becker muscular dystrophy (DIS-trah-fee), or BMD, is a genetic disease affecting different groups of muscles in the body. A genetic disease is one that you are born with and you may have inherited from your family. BMD causes muscle cells to die, and results in the muscle becoming weak, small, and deformed. BMD is similar to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), except that it develops at a much slower rate. Like DMD, BMD usually occurs in young boys and is rarely found in girls.

What causes Becker muscular dystrophy?

Becker muscular dystrophy is caused by problems with the genes and chromosomes. Genes are little pieces of information that tell your body what to do or what to make. Chromosomes are like packages that hold all the genes.

What are the signs and symptoms of Becker muscular dystrophy?

The most common problem in BMD is muscle weakness that slowly worsens. Symptoms usually start in late childhood or early adolescence and affects the lower limbs, in particular the thigh muscles. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Early phase:
    • Clumsiness, frequent falling, a waddling type of walk, and difficulty climbing stairs.
    • Large calf muscles.
    • Muscle cramps with severe exercise.
    • Problems thinking, learning, focusing, and remembering.
    • Problems with the facial muscles, such as in closing the eyes or puckering the lips.
  • Late phase:
    • Contractures (painful shortening of the muscles) or muscle wasting.
    • Heart problems.
    • Inability to walk or stand.
    • Lordosis (spine bends forward) or scoliosis (bending of the spine sideways).
    • Trouble swallowing or breathing and frequent lung infections.

How is Becker muscular dystrophy diagnosed?

You may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Biopsy: Caregivers remove a small piece of tissue from the muscle that is sent to the lab for tests.
  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.
  • Electromyography: This is also called an EMG. An EMG is done to test the function of your muscles and the nerves that control them. Electrodes (wires) are placed on the area of muscle being tested. Needles that enter your skin may be attached to the electrodes. The electrical activity of your muscles and nerves is measured by a machine attached to the electrodes. Your muscles are tested at rest and with activity.
  • Genetic test: This test provides genetic information to learn if a hereditary disease is causing the problem.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called an MRI. Pictures of the muscles are taken during this test. Caregivers use these pictures to look for changes in your muscles.

How is Becker muscular dystrophy treated?

There is no treatment for the muscle weakness and wasting of BMD. Medicines may be given to decrease BMD symptoms, such as muscle stiffness and pain. Other supportive therapies may be needed such as:

  • Assistive devices: These are devices that protect and support the body to prevent further injury. These devices may include braces, crutches, or wheelchairs.
  • Genetic counseling: You and your family will learn more about genetic or inherited diseases. This information may help you and your family in making make important decisions, such as planning a family.
  • Medicines: Steroids and pain medicines may be given to decrease redness, pain, and swelling. Medicines may also be given to treat other conditions that are found with BMD, such as heart medicines.
  • Rehabilitation therapies: Physical and occupational therapies may be needed to help you become better able to take care of yourself. Physical therapies are exercises to help make your bones and muscles stronger. Occupational therapy uses work, self-care, and play activities to help you in your daily life.
  • Surgery: This may be needed to treat complications from BMD, such as contractures (shortened muscles).

Where can I find support and more information?

Becker muscular dystrophy is a life-changing disease for you and your family. Accepting that you or a family member has BMD is hard. You and those close to you may feel angry, depressed, or frightened. These are normal feelings. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings.

You may also want to join a muscular dystrophy support group. This is a group of people who have BMD. Contact the following for more information:
  • Muscular Dystropy Association
    3300 E. Sunrise Drive
    Tucson , AZ 85718
    Phone: 1- 800 - 344-4863
    Web Address: http://www.mdausa.org
  • National Society of Genetic Counselors
    401 N. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago , IL 60611
    Phone: 1- 312 - 321-6834
    Web Address: www.nsgc.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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