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Definition

MD (1)Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of muscle diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system and hamper locomotion. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue.

In the 1860s, descriptions of boys who grew progressively weaker, lost the ability to walk, and died at an early age became more prominent in medical journals. In the following decade, French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne gave a comprehensive account of thirteen boys with the most common and severe form of the disease, which now carries his name—Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

It soon became evident that the disease had more than one form. The other major forms are Becker, limb-girdle, congenital, facioscapulohumeral, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, distal, and Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy. Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies, being caused by a mutation of a gene located on the X chromosome, predominantly affect males, although females can sometimes have severe symptoms as well. Most types of MD are multi-system disorders with manifestations in body systems including the heart, gastrointestinal system, nervous system, endocrine glands, eyes and brain.

Apart from the nine major types of muscular dystrophy listed above, several MD-like conditions have also been identified. Normal intellectual, muscular, behavioural, bowel and sexual function is noticed in individuals with other forms of MD and MD-like conditions. MD-affected individuals with susceptible intellectual impairment are diagnosed through molecular characteristics but not through problems associated with disability. However, a third of patients who are severely affected with DMD may have cognitive impairment, behavioural, vision and speech problems.

Medical Marijuana Efficacy

Medical marijuana may help MD sufferers who live with chronic pain avoid building up a never-ending tolerance to opiate based pain medication. A recent study looked at the effect of adding medical marijuana to the daily regime of patients who consume opiate based pain medication for chronic pain. The study found that the participants experienced an average drop in pain level of 27 percent while not significantly affecting the blood-levels of the prescription drugs. For MD patients, in particular, excessive levels of opiates in the blood can be extremely dangerous given the respiratory problems common to MD sufferers. The fact that medical marijuana was able to reduce pain levels without increasing opiate blood levels is important.

Smoking marijuana has been found to be the most effective and rapid mechanism for relaying the active compounds to the brain, thereby allowing the sufferer to feel immediate relief from pain as well as offering better control over medication levels. Smoking anything, however, is clearly not good for your lungs or respiratory system. An MD sufferer may have a particularly compromised respiratory system. Luckily, there is another, equally effective, yet healthier mechanism for using medical marijuana – vaporization. Because the active compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, are volatile, they can be vaporized at a temperature level significantly lower than that needed to reach combustion, or smoke. As a result, hot air can simply be drawn through the marijuana, which in turn vaporizes the cannabinoids and frees them for inhalation.

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