What is Motor Neurone Disease?

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What is Motor Neurone Disease?

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a blanket term used to refer to a group of rare diseases that causes progressive weakness by muscle wasting when certain parts of the central nervous system are damaged. Motor neurone disease occurs when specialist nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurones stop working properly. Motor neurones control important muscle activity, such as gripping, walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing.
In around 5% of the reported cases of MND, faulty genes are involved, which shows that genetic traits could be a crucial factor, and no links have been made between the disease and race, diet or lifestyle. Motor neurone disease is a severely life-shortening condition for most people. Life expectancy for about half of those with the condition is three to four years from the start of symptoms. However, some people may live for up to 10 years, and others even longer.
Perhaps the most common form of Motor neurons disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS was brought to the forefront of the medical community’s attention after the baseball legend after which it is named, Lou Gehrig, had his Hall of Fame career shortened by the disease. The disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy once the upper and lower motor neurons are damaged, making it progressively more difficult to control movement and function until eventually all control is lost. As a result, they are unable to function, the muscles deteriorate and atrophy.
No test can provide a definite diagnosis of ALS, although the presence of upper and lower motor neuron signs in a single limb is strongly suggestive. Instead, the diagnosis of ALS is primarily based on the symptoms and signs the physician observes in the patient and a series of tests to rule out other diseases. Physicians obtain the patient’s full medical history and usually conduct a neurologic examination at regular intervals to assess whether symptoms such as muscle weakness, atrophy of muscles, hyperreflexia, and spasticity are getting progressively worse.
Well known people who have some form of motor neurone disease include Stephen Hawking and Joost van der Westhuizen.
Written by Wesley Geyer
Creative writer at ATKA SA
(Picture: BBC)
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