With the recent craze of ice bucket challenges, I thought I’d write about Motor Neurone Disease (MND), so that those of you who did the challenge and made a donation can learn more about the condition.
Motor neurone diseases refer to a group of conditions that affect the motor neurones in the body. One of the most common of these conditions is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Here in South Africa, ALS and MND are used interchangeably, generally referring to the same condition.
What is MND?
MND is the degeneration of the motor neurones in the body, causing muscle wasting and stiffness. Motor neurones control essential voluntary muscle activity, such as breathing, swallowing, speaking and walking. As the muscles get weaker, these movements become increasingly difficult.
What causes MND?
At present it is not known what causes MND; however, the following factors are believed to have an impact on increased risk of developing MND:
· Exposure to toxic environments
· A virus that lies dormant in the system for a long period of time
· A genetic predisposition to degeneration of the motor neurones
MND is more commonly diagnosed in adults age 50 years and older, but can be present in younger individuals. It also tends to be more prevalent in males.
Symptoms vary, depending on which motor neurones are affected first. Muscle wasting and stiffness usually occur first in the limbs, resulting in dragging of one or both legs and limiting the use of both the arms and hands. Speech gradually becomes slurred. As the disease progresses, the more crucial muscles of the face and lungs are affected, causing problems with breathing and swallowing, eventually resulting in death. Intellectual ability is not affected by MND.
Treatment and Prognosis
Currently, there is no treatment that will alter the progression of MND. Medications and therapies are used to manage the symptoms. Individuals with MND are usually given between 1 and 5 years to live after diagnosis, but there are cases where people have lived longer.
Because there is no treatment for MND, it is crucial that the symptoms are managed appropriately, so that one can still enjoy quality of life. Physical therapy and exercise are essential in maintaining as much muscle strength and movement as possible, keeping an individual as independent as possible, as well as improving mood and self-worth.