Motor Neuron Disease is a serious, chronic, progressive disorder which affects the motor neurons of the body. Motor neurons are the nerve cells which control the voluntary movements of extremities and trunk.
The patients of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) usually show signs of difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and marked difficulty in movements of the body due to weakness of the muscles and wasting. As MND is a progressive disorder, patients suffering from MND become increasingly disabled.
Types of Motor Neuron Disease (MND):
Motor Neuron Disease can be divided into four main types.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP)
- Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA)
- Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)
Out of these four, the ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is the most common form of MND. Its prevalence is more than 65%. It is also known as Lou Gehriga’s disease. This name is given after the famous footballer Lou Gehrig, who also suffered from this disease.
Causes: The exact cause of development of the MND is not known. Few studies indicate that infections with viruses can cause the development of this condition. The genetic factors also play a significant role in the development of this disease.
- Weakness and spasticity of the muscles of the arms or legs.
- Difficulty in swallowing food and water.
- Slurring of speech
- Cramps, pains and twitching in the muscles
- Change in voice
- Fatigue and muscles wasting.
The weakness of the muscles of legs leads to clumsy and awkward gait. Such patients are typically seen walking with â€œdropped Footâ€. It means their foot goes on dragging along the ground while walking. Most of the time diagnosis can be made by just seeing the gait of the patients.
Those patients who are affected with weakness and spasticity of arms notice difficulty in writing, buttoning the shirt or opening the lock with the help of key etc. patients also notice that their grip also has become weak.
Body parts which do not get affected:
- Sense of smell, touch, taste and hearing are not affected by this disease.
- Intellect of a person remains unchanged and unaffected by this disease. The well known scientist Stephen Hawking is the biggest example of person living and excelling in life with MND.
- Bladder and bowel movements and control are not generally affected.
- Heredity: There is a genetic link involved in developing this condition
- Age: Usually, after the age of 40, risk of developing MND increases.
- Sex: MND is more common in males than in females.
- Certain professions: People who are working in army, navy or air force have shown higher risk of developing MND. Professional foot ball players are also found to have much higher risk of developing MND.
There are no specific tests to confirm the diagnosis. However, doctors (neurologist) perform following tests to rule out other similar conditions.
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Nerve conduction studies
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
- MRI scan of brain
This is a chronic progressive disorder. Doctors can only give supportive line of treatment to relieve symptoms like difficulty in swallowing, muscles twitching, pain in body, difficulty in swallowing etc. Physiotherapy is found to be very useful for controlling the disease progress. Regular physiotherapy sessions can improve muscle tones, flexibility and power. This in turn helps the patients of MND to improve the quality of life.
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