Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable us to move around, speak, breathe and swallow fail to work normally.
With no nerves to activate them, muscles gradually weaken and waste. The patterns of weakness vary from person to person.
Early symptoms are mild, and may include stumbling due to weakness of the leg muscles, difficulty holding objects due to weakness of the hand muscles, slurring of speech or swallowing difficulties due to weakness of the tongue and throat muscles.
The effect of MND varies enormously in respect of initial symptoms, rate and pattern of progression, and survival time after diagnosis.
The diagnosis of MND is often clinically difficult, and it is sometimes necessary to review patients for some time before diagnosis becomes relatively certain. The family doctor may suspect the neurological problem, and confirmation of the diagnosis by a Neurologist is necessary.
The diagnosis can be assisted through a range of tests, including some which eliminate other conditions as possible causes of the symptoms. Often an Electromyograph (EMG) is used, in which a needle is inserted into various muscles to measure their electrical activity. This can assist with both diagnosis and prognosis.
In the majority of cases the intellect and memory are not affected, nor are the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and sensation.
The bowels and bladder are not affected by the disease, although diet and exercise should be carefully monitored.
At present there is no cure, but co-ordinated research is being carried out across the world and encouraging progress is being made. Costly and unproven therapies are sometimes recommended by well meaning people. Patients should seek medical advice before embarking on unproven therapies.
You may hear through TV or other media of new advances. You should always check with your own Doctor or Associations for further information.
A lot can be done to manage the symptoms of MND and to assist people to live as well as possible for as long as possible. Support people include the family, friends, GPs, Neurologists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists, Social Workers, dieticians, Palliative Care and Home Care Nurses.
Information about support available can be obtained from the Motor Neurone Disease Association in your State.
Most State Associations employ professional staff to provide advice and information about living well with MND, resources and equipment as well as on-going support, all of which can maximise quality of life for people living with MND.