Nicholas Johnson, MD, and researchers at the University of Rochester recently published an article in The Journal of Child Neurology that describes the impact of childhood and congenital myotonic dystrophy on quality of life. The authors interviewed 21 children with childhood and congenital myotonic dystrophy and 13 parents. After recording these interviews, the authors reviewed transcripts to identify the most important symptoms to parents and children. Overall, participants reported 189 different symptoms.
Dr. Johnson and his colleagues found that many of the parents and children identified trouble speaking (dysarthria) as the primary symptom that impacted the children’s lives. Other participants identified learning difficulties and problems concentrating as life altering symptoms. Although many of the study participants did not identify a diagnosis of autism specifically, autistic traits, such as a narrow scope of interest, repetitive speech, inappropriate social responses, and inflexibility were reported.
As expected, many of the symptoms affecting those with congenital and childhood myotonic dystrophy are different from the symptoms of adult-onset myotonic dystrophy type-1. Prior work by Chad Heatwole, MD, MS-CI, the senior author on this study, identified fatigue, hand and finger weakness, and difficulty walking as significantly impacting the quality of life of those with adult-onset myotonic dystrophy type-1. While these symptoms were also reported in children with myotonic dystrophy, their presentation and significance were different.
Importantly, many symptoms of congenital and childhood myotonic dystrophy, such as communication difficulties, already have available treatments. The authors hope that by identifying the wide range of symptoms affecting children with myotonic dystrophy, doctors will be able to identify critical symptoms earlier and initiate timely treatment strategies.
Dr. Johnson and University of Rochester researchers, with the support of the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, have used information from this study to develop a survey, which was distributed to US, Canadian and Swedish patients with congenital and childhood myotonic dystrophy. Results from this international group of patients will be used to further define and prioritize the most important symptoms to patients with congenital and childhood myotonic dystrophy. Ultimately this data will be used to help guide researchers in designing future therapeutic trials for these populations.