What is limb-girdle muscular dystrophy?
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy is a term for a group of diseases that cause weakness and wasting of the muscles in the arms and legs. The muscles most affected are those closest to the body (proximal muscles), specifically the muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, pelvic area, and thighs.
The severity, age of onset, and features of limb-girdle muscle dystrophy vary among the many subtypes of this condition and may be inconsistent even within the same family. Signs and symptoms may first appear at any age and generally worsen with time, although in some cases they remain mild.
In the early stages of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, affected individuals may have an unusual walking gait, such as waddling or walking on the balls of their feet, and may also have difficulty running. They may need to use their arms to press themselves up from a squatting position because of their weak thigh muscles. As the condition progresses, people with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy may eventually require wheelchair assistance.
Muscle wasting may cause changes in posture or in the appearance of the shoulder, back, and arm. In particular, weak shoulder muscles tend to make the shoulder blades (scapulae) “stick out” from the back, a sign known as scapular winging. Affected individuals may also have an abnormally curved lower back (lordosis) or a spine that curves to the side (scoliosis). Some develop joint stiffness (contractures) that can restrict movement in their hips, knees, ankles, or elbows. Overgrowth (hypertrophy) of the calf muscles occurs in some people with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.
Weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) occurs in some forms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. Some affected individuals experience mild to severe breathing problems related to the weakness of muscles needed for breathing.
Intelligence is generally unaffected in limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; however, developmental delay and intellectual disability have been reported in rare forms of the disorder.
How common is limb-girdle muscular dystrophy?
It is difficult to determine the prevalence of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy because its features vary and overlap with those of other muscle disorders. Prevalence estimates range from 1 in 14,500 to 1 in 123,000 individuals.