Motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a rare, severe and incurable condition where, over time, the brain and spinal nerves experience progressive loss of function (neurodegeneration).

In particular, nerve cells, known as motor neurons, are affected by MND.

What are motor neurons?

Motor neurons are specialized nerve cells that control important voluntary muscle activity, such as:

  • To roam around,
  • Speaking,
  • Breathing, and
  • Swallow.

Loss of motor neuron function can lead to muscle weakness and wastage, increased loss of mobility in limbs, and difficulty in speech, swallowing, and breathing.

How common is motor neuron disease?

MND is one of the rare neurological conditions (conditions affecting the nervous system). About 110 people die of motor neurone disease each year in Ireland.

MND primarily affects adults older than 40 and most cases develop in people between the ages of 50 and 70. However, MND can affect adults under 40 years of age.

Males account for 60% of all cases of MND, with the remaining 40% accounting for women.

The cause (or cause) of MND is unknown, but it appears that genes play a factor, at least in some people with the condition. This is because 10% of people who develop MND have a close family with the condition.

Types of motor neuron disease

There are three main types of MND:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – the most common form of MND and occurs in 90% of cases,
Progressive muscular atrpphy (PMA) – accounts for 5% of MND cases, and
Progressive lateral sclerosis – accounting for 5% of cases.

The symptoms of all three forms of MND are similar, although there are differences in how quickly each type progresses.


In terms of survival rates, the outlook for MND is very poor. The facts are that:

  • 70% of people with ALS die within three years after the onset of symptoms,
  • About 10% can live for 5 years or longer.

Although the outlook is poor for most cases of MND, a minority of people with this condition live longer than stated above. For example, scientist Steven Hawking has MND, and was diagnosed 40 years ago.

In terms of quality of life, the outlook for people living with MND is not as bleak as many imagine. Although MND cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated and some people have the condition to be able to maintain an independent lifestyle for many years.

Common misunderstanding

Many recent high-profile news abroad have included people with MND attempting to fight a legal battle to obtain the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide. This has led to widespread confusion that people with MND face the possibility of painful and painful death from suffocation, malnutrition or suffocation.

However, this is not the case. A recent study found that 98% of people in England with MND died peacefully in sleep, and 50% of those people were able to die at home.

Symptoms of motor neurone disease (MND) usually follow a pattern marked by three stages:

  • Early stages,
  • Advanced stage, and
  • Last stage.

Early symptoms

The initial symptoms of neurone disease (MND) usually develop slowly and subtly over time. It may be easy to mistake early symptoms for a number of unrelated neurological conditions (conditions affecting the nervous system).

Initial symptoms of MND may include:

  • A weak grip, which can make it difficult to lift or hold objects,
  • A general feeling of fatigue,
  • Muscle aches and cramps,
  • Muscle twitch,
  • Blatant speech,
  • Weakness in arms and / or legs
  • The feeling that you have become a lot more clumsy than ever, like walking around more than always.

Advanced symptoms:

The advanced symptoms of MND are given below.

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive drizzle
  • Over yawning
  • Difficulty talking
  • Emotional change
  • Cognitive changes and dementia
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of end stage:

As MND moves into its final stages, it is likely that you will experience:

  • Total body paralysis, and
  • Difficulty breathing.

Ultimately, mechanical assistance, such as using an oxygen mask, will not be sufficient to compensate for the loss of normal lung function. At this stage, most people with MND tend to dry faster before falling into deep sleep. They usually die peacefully in their sleep.

Secondary symptoms

Many people with MND will experience additional symptoms that are not directly caused by the condition, but are related to the stress and anxiety of living with MND.

These secondary symptoms include:

  • depression,
  • Insomnia, and
  • anxiety.


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