Muscular Dystrophy Life Expectancy

The muscular dystrophies (MD) refer to a group of inherited genetic conditions that weaken your muscles over time. Muscular dystrophy is a progressive condition that eventually leads to disability. It usually affects a specific group of muscles in the beginning but becomes worse over time. Certain types of MD also affect the heart as well as the muscles used for breathing. This can lead to life-threatening consequences and reduce muscular dystrophy life expectancy quite significantly. MD is not curable but certain treatment options can help manage symptoms in a better way.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy can be divided into many types. All those types affect your muscles, but may produce different symptoms, depending on the areas affected by the condition. Many factors go into determining the overall life expectancy. It usually depends on the type of MD you have, your age at the time of onset, and rate of progression. Whether or not respiratory muscles or cardiac muscles are involved also plays a big role in determining the muscular dystrophy life expectancy.

Here is more about different types of MD with their corresponding life expectancy:

Types of Muscular Dystrophy

Life Expectancy


Anyone suffering from this type of MD is likely to die in his/her early 20s. Special medical care may help extend life a bit, but even these patients rarely go past their 30s.


It depends on how severe the condition is. Many people experience no change in normal life expectancy, but others with severe congenital form fail to survive for more than a few years after birth.


This type of MD progresses slowly and you notice symptoms during your teenage years only. Some people do not experience any of these symptoms until their 40s. A large majority of people with this type of MD live a full lifespan.



Many people with this type of MD manage to live longer than 30.


People with this type are at an increased risk of developing respiratory and heart problems, which is the reason why they usually have shortened life expectancy. Most of these patients die in mid-adulthood from lung or heart failure.


The condition is usually diagnosed in your 40s or 50s, but if you receive proper treatment, it is possible to manage your symptoms without experiencing any change in lifespan.


The life expectancy with this type of MD depends heavily on how severe your symptoms are. Many newborns die in infancy when they have congenital muscular dystrophy, but there are others who manage to survive until adulthood.


Most people with Limb-Girdle experience disability by the time they reach their 20s. Many patients manage to live to late adulthood.


This type progresses quite slowly and is not that severe either. Usually diagnosed in your 40s and 60s, the condition often makes no change to your normal lifespan.

Treatments Available to Prolong Muscular Dystrophy Life Expectancy

In order to determine the best treatment option for you, it is important to first consider what symptoms you are experiencing. Your healthcare provider will work closely with you and devise a treatment strategy keeping the severity of your symptoms in mind. Here are some of the options available.

1. Breathing and Mobility Assistance

When your muscles become week, it is obvious to lose strength and mobility. Your doctor will help make things better by suggesting low-impact exercise and physiotherapy. Through physiotherapy, they help preserve flexibility and strength in your muscles. They may recommend physical aids, such as leg braces, wheel chair, crutches, etc., to help keep you mobile. They may also offer occupation therapy to help improve your independence by changing your environment. Certain machines are provided in case your chest muscles have become weak and you have breathing problems.

2. Steroid Medication

With certain types of MD, such as Duchenne, you may have to take corticosteroid medication to control your symptoms. These medications help improve muscle strength for at least six months and up to two years in some cases. You can take steroid medication in liquid or tablet form, and you have to take your medication daily to slow down the process of muscle weakening. Be sure to discuss all the side effects of using steroids on a long term basis.

3. Creatine Supplements

Some studies have found that people with MD may benefit from creatine supplements – creatine is a substance that facilitates the process of supplying energy to nerve and muscle cells. While it may help some people, it is not free of side effects. Do not start taking these supplements without discussing this option with your doctor first.

4. Dealing with Swallowing Problems

Your doctor may use different treatment strategies to deal with your swallowing problems. You experience these problems when your MD becomes severe. You develop a condition called dysphagia, which makes it difficult to swallow your food. You will be at an increased risk of chocking – some people even develop chest infections when food gets into the lungs, which may negatively affect your muscular dystrophy life expectancy. Your doctor will make you work with a dietician to help make the right food choices. They will also change the consistency of your food and teach you certain exercises to improve swallowing. Surgery is also recommended in certain cases.

5. Dealing with Heart Complications

When MD affects your heart muscles, it requires immediate medical help. Your doctor will devise a plan keeping your symptoms in mind. They will assess your heart function regularly, and may even carry out an ECG exam of heart rhythm to ensure everything is under control. Your doctor will refer you to a cardiologist in case they detect any damage to your heart. Your cardiologist may prescribe ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or other medication to treat heart problems.

6. Corrective Surgery

Severe cases of MD may require corrective surgery. If you have Duchenne MD, you are likely to develop scoliosis, which require surgery. Your doctor may also recommend surgery to treat other symptoms, such as droopy eyelids, weak shoulder muscles, and tight joints. 

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