What is Motor neurone disease (MND)?

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a slowly progressive disease that affects the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. These nerve cells control the muscles that move your body.

MND is a serious and fatal disease. It’s the most common cause of death from a rare group of diseases called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

MND affects people of all ages, including children. It’s more common in women than in men.

Symptoms of motor neurone disease

MND affects the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can develop slowly or suddenly.

Symptoms of MND can develop slowly over time or suddenly.

Symptoms of MND can include:

  • Muscle weakness in your arms or legs
  • Muscle cramps
  • Problems with your urinary and bowel (bladder and bowel) functions
  • Problems with your breathing, such as sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Pain and stiffness in your muscles
  • Problems with swallowing

These symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly.

MND symptoms may come and go. Or they may happen throughout the day.

You may have one or more of these symptoms at once.

What causes motor neurone disease?

MND is caused by the death of motor neurone cells. It’s an inherited disease. You’re born with genes that cause your body to make motor neurone cells. But you can also inherit genes that cause motor neurone cells to die.

Your genes make a protein called a motor neuron disease protein (MND-1 protein). If you have it, you have MND.

About 50% of people with the MND-1 gene develop the disorder.

How is motor neurone disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of MND is based on symptoms.

Your doctor may suggest a blood test. This is to check your MND-1 gene. This is done to help confirm the diagnosis.

If you’re having symptoms, your doctor may recommend an MRI scan. This is also to check the symptoms.

How is motor neurone disease treated?

There’s currently no cure for MND. Your doctor will recommend treatment that’s most likely to help you.

There are several types of treatment for MND.

Medication

Your doctor will suggest medication as the first treatment option. Your doctor may recommend that you take cholinesterase inhibitors.

Cholinesterase inhibitors work by stopping the breakdown of acetylcholine in your brain. This can help reduce the symptoms of MND.

Antibiotics

Your doctor may also recommend antibiotics. These are used to treat infections that may be causing your symptoms.

Surgery

If MND has affected your breathing, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is to help you breathe more easily. You may need surgery to help you swallow.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor may also suggest that you:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol.

How can I help someone who has motor neurone disease?

It can be difficult for you to help someone who has MND. But there are things you can do to help your loved one.

If you’re caring for someone with MND, you can:

  • Encourage them to take their medicines as prescribed.
  • Take them with them when they go into hospital.
  • Talk to them about how they’re feeling.
  • Ask for help if they need it.
  • Make sure they’re getting the rest of their daily needs.
  • Keep the environment around them safe and comfortable.

You can also:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Get enough rest and sleep.
  • Try to take time to do things you enjoy.
  • Plan fun activities with your loved one.
  • Consider joining a support group.

Support groups

You can also join a support group.

These are groups of people who have the same condition. They can share their experiences and help each other.

Support groups can help you and your loved one. They can also help other people with the condition.

You can find support groups online or in your area.

Where can I get help if I have motor neurone disease?

If you’re worried about having a family member with MND, you can:

  • Talk to your doctor. They may recommend that you speak to a specialist.
  • Contact the National MND Association (NMDA). They can help you find a specialist.
  • Talk to your local health service. They can give you information about support groups.

What’s the outlook for people with motor neurone disease?

Most people with MND die within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis.

MND is a progressive disease. It gets worse over time. But you can live with this condition for many years.

There’s no cure for MND. But your doctor can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

The sooner you get a diagnosis, the better your chances of living for many years.

Living with motor neurone disease

If you have MND, you’ll need ongoing treatment. This can include:

  • Medicine.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Speech therapy.

It’s also important to take good care of yourself. This includes getting enough rest and sleep.

When should I call my doctor?

If you have any symptoms of MND, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

They’ll be able to refer you to a specialist. They’ll also be able to give you a diagnosis and answer any questions you have.

Key points about motor neurone disease

  • Motor neurone disease (MND) is a rare disease that affects the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. These nerve cells control the muscles that move your body.
  • People with MND usually die within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis.
  • It’s a progressive disease that gets worse over time. But you can live with this condition for many years.
  • There’s no cure for MND, but your doctor can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Epilogue

If you or someone you know has MND, you’re not alone.

Your support and care are essential.

Images by Freepik

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