Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy is muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue that gets worse over time.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder. It appears in both men and women. It may develop in a child if either parent carries the gene for the disorder. In 10% to 30% of cases, the parents do not carry the gene.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy affects about 5 out of 100,000 people. It affects men and women equally.
Men often have more symptoms than women.
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy mainly affects the face, shoulder, and upper arm muscles. However, it can also affect muscles around the pelvis, hips, and lower leg.
Symptoms can appear after birth, but often they do not appear until age 10 to 26. However, it is not uncommon for symptoms to appear much later in life. In some cases, symptoms never develop.
Symptoms are most often mild and very slowly become worse. Muscle weakness of the face is common, and may include:
- Eyelid drooping
- Inability to whistle
- Decreased facial expression
- Depressed or angry facial expression
- Difficulty pronouncing words
Shoulder muscle weakness causes deformities such as pronounced shoulder blades (scapular winging) and sloping shoulders. The person has difficulty raising the arms because of shoulder and arm muscle weakness.
Weakness of the lower legs is possible as the disorder gets worse. The weakness can be severe enough to interfere with walking. A small percentage of people use a wheelchair.
Hearing loss and abnormal heart rhythms may occur, but are rare.
Exams and Tests
A physical exam will show weakness of the face and shoulder muscles. High blood pressure may be noted, but is usually mild. An eye exam may show changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eye.
Tests that may be done include:
There is no known cure for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Treatments are given to control symptoms and improve quality of life. Activity is encouraged. Inactivity such as bedrest can make the muscle disease worse.
Physical therapy may help maintain muscle strength. Other possible treatments include:
- Oral albuterol to increase muscle mass (but not strength)
- Speech therapy
- Surgery to fix a winged scapula
- Walking aids and foot support devices
Disability is often minor. Lifespan is most often not affected.
Complications may include:
- Decreased mobility
- Decreased ability to care for self
- Deformities of the face and shoulders
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss (rare)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if symptoms of this condition develop.
Genetic counseling is recommended for couples with a family history of this condition who wish to have children.
Landouzy-Dejerine muscular dystrophy
Preston DC, Shapiro BE. Proximal, distal, and generalized weakness. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 27.
Sarnat HB. Muscular dystrophies. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 609.
Review Date 11/19/2015
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.