Two muscular dystrophy conditions have been found to be most common among Hispanic boys: Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Becker muscular dystrophy.
According to the first large-scale study of its kind, data from University of Iowa experts revealed the frequency of these two disorders among boys between the ages of 5 and 9. Muscular dystrophy is the umbrella phrase given to diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass, according to the Mayo Clinic. These diseases often start during childhood and are seen most commonly in boys. Prior to the Iowa University study, not much investigation had been done on specific muscular dystrophy conditions and their prevalence among boys of specific races/ethnicities.
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“There were always some rather crude estimates of how common these muscular dystrophies are,” Paul Romitti, an epidemiologist corresponding author of the study, said in a press release. “It tells us that they’re still an important public health concern.”
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic form of muscular dystrophy and one of nine diseases in the collective group. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) indicates Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact. Children with this condition typically see symptoms present as early as age 3, and by the time children become teenagers, the heart and lung muscles are often affected.
Becker muscular dystrophy is considered a milder version of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Becker muscular dystrophy is caused by an absence of dystrophin. Unlike the more severe version of the disease, children with Becker muscular dystrophy experience symptoms later in childhood or in the early teens, and these children often maintain better voluntary control of muscles.
Though boys have always been more likely to experience muscular dystrophy conditions, experts are unsure why Hispanic boys in the study showed the highest risk compared to non-Hispanic white and African American boys.
The study sheds light on an often misunderstood group of diseases, and researchers hope the data will be useful to doctors serving at-risk groups.
“People who have these disorders require daily attention from their families and complex-care management from health-care providers,” said Romitti. “The new data will help to estimate the cost for the parents and the health-care system. We are continuing to learn more about the total impact of these disorders on the child and the family.”
There is currently no cure for Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy though human research trials are underway for promising genetic therapies. More investigation is needed to know why Hispanic boys are more likely to suffer from these genetic conditions compared to others.