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Becker's muscular dystrophy (also known as Benign pseudohypertrophic muscular dystrophy) is an X-linked recessive inherited disorder characterized by slowly progressive muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis.

It is a type of dystrophinopathy, which includes a spectrum of muscle diseases in which there is insufficient dystrophin produced in the muscle cells, resulting in instability in the structure of muscle cell membrane. This is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which encodes the protein dystrophin. Becker's muscular dystrophy is related to Duchenne muscular dystrophy in that both result from a mutation in the dystrophin gene, but in Duchenne muscular dystrophy no functional dystrophin is produced making DMD much more severe than BMD. Both Duchenne and Becker's muscular dystrophy have traditionally been called "X-linked" recessive diseases, but in view of modern molecular biology and identification of the dystrophin gene, it might be more appropriate to say they are X-chromosome recessive diseases. Becker's is named after the German doctor Peter Emil Becker.



X-linked recessive inheritance

The disorder is inherited with an X-linked recessive inheritance pattern. The gene is located on the X chromosome. Since women have two X chromosomes, if one X chromosome has the non-working gene, the second X chromosome will have a working copy of the gene to compensate. In these cases, some women have much milder symptoms because of this ability to compensate. For example, carrier females of mutations are at increased risk for dilated cardiomyopathy. Since men have an X and a Y chromosome and because they don't have another X to compensate for the defective gene, they will develop symptoms if they inherit the non-working gene.

All dystrophinopathes are inherited in an X-linked recessive manner. The risk to the siblings of an affected individual depends upon the carrier status of the mother. Carrier females have a 50% chance of passing the DMD mutation in each pregnancy. Sons who inherit the mutation will be affected; daughters who inherit the mutation will be carriers. Men who have Becker's muscular dystrophy can have children, and all their daughters are carriers, but none of the sons will inherit their father's mutation. Prenatal testing through amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) for pregnancies at risk is possible if the DMD mutation is found in a family member or if informative linked markers have been identified.

Becker's muscular dystrophy occurs in approximately 3 to 6 in 100,000 male births. Symptoms usually appear in men at about age 12, but may sometimes begin later. The average age of becoming unable to walk is 25-30. Women rarely develop symptoms.

Genetic counseling is indicated for individuals or families who may carry this condition. Also enlarges reproductive organs.


  1. Muscle weakness, slowly progressive (Difficulty running, hopping, jumping; Progressive difficulty walking)
  2. Ability to walk may continue into adulthood (up to age 40)
  3. Frequent falls
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Cognitive dysfunction
  6. Skeletal deformities, chest and back (scoliosis)
  7. Muscle deformities (contractions of heels, legs; Pseudohypertrophy of calf muscles)
  8. Fatigue
  9. Heart disease

People with this disorder experience progressive muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis, which is associated with a loss of muscle mass (wasting). Muscle weakness also occurs in the arms, neck, and other areas, but not as severely as in the lower half of the body.

Calf muscles initially enlarge (an attempt by the body to compensate for loss of muscle strength), but the enlarged muscle tissue is eventually replaced by fat and connective tissue (pseudohypertrophy).

Muscle contractions occur in the legs and heels, causing inability to use the muscles because of shortening of muscle fibers and fibrosis of connective tissue. Bones develop abnormally, causing skeletal deformities of the chest and other areas.

Cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart) does not occur as commonly with this disorder as it does with Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. Cognitive problems may accompany the disorder, but they are not inevitable and do not worsen as the disorder progresses.

Signs and tests

The pattern of symptom development resembles that of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, but with a much slower rate of progression. Muscle wasting begins in the legs and pelvis, then progresses to the muscles of the shoulders and neck, followed by loss of arm muscles and respiratory muscles. Calf muscle enlargement (pseudohypertrophy) is quite obvious. Cardiomyopathy may occur, but the development of congestive heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) is rare.

The ability to walk may continue to age 40 or older.

Creatine kinase (CPK) levels may be elevated.

An electromyography (EMG) shows that weakness is caused by destruction of muscle tissue rather than by damage to nerves.

Genetic testing

A muscle biopsy (immunohistochemistry or immunoblotting) or genetic test (blood test) confirms the diagnosis.


There is no known cure for Becker's muscular dystrophy. Treatment is aimed at control of symptoms to maximize the quality of life.

Activity is encouraged. Inactivity (such as bed rest) can worsen the muscle disease. Physical therapy may be helpful to maintain muscle strength. Orthopedic appliances such as braces and wheelchairs may improve mobility and self-care.

Genetic counseling may be advisable. Sons of a man with Becker's muscular dystrophy do not develop the disorder, but daughters will be carriers. The daughters' sons may develop the disorder.

Immunosuppressant steroids like Prednisone have been known to help slow the progression of Becker Muscular Dystrophy. The drug contributes to an increased production of the protein Utrophin which closely resembles Dystrophin, the protein that is defective in BMD.


Main article: Stamulumab

MYO-029 is an experimental myostatin inhibiting drug developed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of muscular dystrophy. Myostatin is a protein that inhibits the growth of muscle tissue, MYO-029 is a recombinant human antibody designed to bind and inhibit the activity of myostatin. A 2005/2006 study, which included participants afflicted with Becker's, was completed by Wyeth in Collegeville, PA.

Expectations and Prognosis

Becker's muscular dystrophy results in slowly progressive disability. Death usually occurs in the fifth decade but some patients live to an advanced age.



Permanent, progressive disability manifested as decreased mobility or decreased ability to care for self

Mental impairment


Noncompaction Cardiomyopathy

Pneumonia or other respiratory infections

Respiratory failure

Quality of Life

The quality of life for patients with Becker's muscular dystrophy need not be impacted by the symptoms of the disorder. With assisting devices, independence can be maintained indefinitely. People affected by Becker's muscular dystrophy can still drive, work, own businesses, and maintain active lifestyles.


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