By Shawn Clark
Motor neuron disease or MND is defined as a progressive disease that involves degeneration of the motor neurons (hence the name) and wasting of the muscles. Disease was identified and described by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1874.
According to the MNDassociation.org person’s lifetime risk of developing this disease is 1 in 300. The primary purpose of this article is to provide useful info about MND and list all signs and symptoms associated with it.
What is MND?
As mentioned above, motor neuron disease or MND is severe and incurable form of progressive neurodgeneration. This means that over time, nerves in one’s spine and brain progressively lose their function. Stephen Hawking, English physicist and the smartest man alive, has this disease.
Motor neuron disease comes in different forms. For example:
• Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS – the most common form of MND and it accounts for 60% to 70% of all cases of this disease.
• Progressive Bulbar Palsy or PBP – accounts for 20% of all MND cases
• Progressive Muscular Atrophy or PMA – accounts for 10% of MND cases
• Primary Lateral Sclerosis or PLS – a rare form of MND. Unlike other types of this disease, PLS isn’t fatal.
Who’s at risk of getting MND?
Although everyone can get MND, some people are at a higher risk. For example:
• Age – risk for MND increases after the age of 40
• Heredity – 1 in 10 people with ALS in the United States inherited disease from their parents. Child whose parent has MND has 50% chances of getting it as well.
• Gender – men are more prone to MND than women
• Geographical location – people in Guam, Japan, and West New Guinea have a higher incidence of MND than people who live in other areas
• Professional football – pro football players have a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, MND, ALS and many other neurodegenerative diseases
• Military experience – according to Medical News Today soldiers who have been in war have a higher chance of developing MND than other people.
What causes MND?
Unfortunately, the exact cause of MND is still unknown and scientists are still conducting studies that would inspect this disease and help determine the exact cause. However, scientists believe that several factors play a role in appearance of this disease. They are:
• Aggregates – unusual protein clumps accumulate in motor neurons in MND patients
• Excess glutamate – people with MND have excessive levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter which transmits data from cell to cell
• Cell metabolism – transport systems in motor neurons of MND patients are disturbed thus contributing to poor nerve function
• Brain injury – several studies have linked brain injuries and head trauma with ALS
• Lack of antioxidant production – motor neurons of patients with MND don’t produce enough antioxidants to destroy free radicals
• Abnormal mitochondria of motor neurons in MND patients
• Neurotrophic factors aren’t produced normally in MND patients
• Glia cells problems etc.
Signs and symptoms of MND
Signs and symptoms of MND are divided according to stages of disease: initial stage, advanced stage, and the end stage. Below, you can see what symptoms indicate each of these stages.
Symptoms in this stage develop slowly and are usually mistaken for symptoms of some other diseases. They are:
• Weakened grip
• Muscle twitches, pains, cramps
• Slurred and oftentimes garbled speech
• Increased clumsiness
• Weak limbs.
During advanced stages symptoms of MND progress. They include:
- Muscle weakness
- Limbs weaker and limb muscles start shrinking
- Movement limited
- Muscle twitches, cramps and spasms worsen
- Stiffness of some limb muscles
- Pain in joint and muscles
- Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties)
- Uncontrollable yawning
- Jaw pain due to excessive yawning
- Alterations in emotional states e.g. uncontrollable crying or laughing
- Speech problems
- Memory lapses
- Shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties.
At this stage, patient is already completely paralyzed and his/her breathing problems worsen so much that even oxygen mask doesn’t help which makes patient feeling drowsy.
Other symptoms associated with MND include insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
How is MND treated?
Unfortunately, MND is incurable disease, but it’s possible to manage symptoms, relieve the pain in order to slow down progression. For instance:
· Memory lapses – slowing down memory lapses and improving memory can be done with mind-engaging activities such as puzzles, crosswords or Sudoku. Patient can also, with the approval of the healthcare provider, use nootropic supplements formulated to improve brain function and increase memory, focus and concentration. There are hundreds of supplements like Nerium-eht on the market and they are made of natural ingredients that decrease chances or slow down progression of neurodegenerative diseases, improve concentration and memory.
· Muscle stiffness, cramps etc. – physiotherapist can create different exercises that help patients relieve muscle pain, stiffness and cramps while disease is progressing. Doctor can also prescribe medications to relieve the pain.
· Drooling – is usually treated with medications
· Swallowing difficulties – are usually resolved with thin eating tubes known as percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy or PEG. This tube is surgically implanted into patient’s stomach.
· Breathing difficulties – most MND patients benefit from non-invasive mechanical ventilation or NIV which supports their breathing
· Emotional liability – doctor may prescribe antidepressant in case patient suffers from depression due to their condition or expresses signs of uncontrollable emotional state.
MND is a rare, severe, and incurable disease that affects motor neurons and leads to loss of brain function. Scientists still don’t know what causes this disease but they speculate that certain factors play a role in its occurrence. Although disease can’t be cured, doctors may suggest different therapies and approaches to relieve the symptoms.
Video to Watch: 4 Simple Exercises to Amp Up Your Brain
Author Bio: Shawn Clark is a Health and Fitness Advisor. For the past 5 years, he is providing nutrition counseling, fitness training and health advice all over Phoenix, Arizona. Specializes on beauty, male sexual health, female sexual health, weight loss, detox & dietary supplements. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter , Linkedin and on Google+.