How Do You Get Motor Neurone Disease?

How Do You Get Motor Neurone Disease?

  • Prakash Bartaula
  • 18 June, 2024
5 Min Read

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) arises through a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. While the exact cause is not fully understood, around 5-10% of MND cases are hereditary, commonly associated with genetic mutations such as the C9orf72 gene mutation. Environmental influences, such as exposure to certain toxins and chemicals, alongside factors like oxidative stress and protein misfolding, are also implicated in the disease’s development.

How Do You Get Motor Neurone Disease?

Motor neurone disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. MND causes these neurons to degenerate and die, leading to muscle weakness, paralysis, and eventually respiratory failure.

How Do You Get Motor Neurone Disease

What Causes MND?

The exact cause of MND is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Here are some potential causes:

  • Genetic factors: Approximately 5-10% of MND cases are inherited, caused by mutations in specific genes. The most common genetic cause is a mutation in the C9orf72 gene.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain toxins, chemicals, or viral infections may increase the risk of developing MND, but the evidence is inconclusive.
  • Oxidative stress: Increased levels of oxidative stress, which can damage cells, may contribute to the death of motor neurons.
  • Protein misfolding: Abnormal accumulation of misfolded proteins, such as TDP-43 and SOD1, may play a role in the development of MND.

It’s important to note that MND is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause is unknown, several risk factors have been identified:

  • Age: The risk of developing MND increases with age, with most cases occurring between the ages of 55 and 75.
  • Gender: MND is slightly more common in men than women.
  • Family history: Having a close relative with MND increases the risk of developing the disease.
  • Military service: Some studies have suggested a higher risk of MND among military personnel, possibly due to exposure to certain environmental factors.

Symptoms and Progression

The symptoms of MND can vary depending on which motor neurons are affected first. Common early signs include:

  • Muscle weakness: This may start in the arms, legs, or bulbar region (affecting speech and swallowing).
  • Muscle cramps and twitching: Fasciculations (involuntary muscle twitches) are often an early symptom.
  • Slurred speech: Difficulty speaking clearly due to weakness in the muscles involved in speech.
  • Difficulty swallowing: As the disease progresses, swallowing can become increasingly difficult.

As MND progresses, symptoms worsen, and additional symptoms may appear, such as:

  • Respiratory problems: Weakness in the muscles involved in breathing can lead to respiratory failure, which is the most common cause of death in MND patients.
  • Cognitive and behavioral changes: Some individuals with MND may experience changes in cognition, behavior, or personality.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 2-5 years, but this can vary significantly depending on the individual and the specific form of MND. Around 10% of people with MND live for 10 years or more[1].

Diagnosis

There is no single test to diagnose MND. Instead, diagnosis involves ruling out other potential causes and may include:

  • Medical history and physical examination: To assess symptoms and muscle weakness.
  • Electromyography (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity of muscles and can detect denervation (loss of nerve supply to muscles).
  • Nerve conduction studies: These tests evaluate the ability of nerves to transmit electrical signals.
  • MRI or CT scans: Imaging tests can help rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
  • Blood and urine tests: These tests can help exclude other potential causes of symptoms.

Treatment and Management

Unfortunately, there is no cure for MND, but various treatments and interventions can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life:

  • Riluzole: This is the only medication approved for treating MND. It may modestly slow disease progression.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises and assistive devices can help maintain mobility and independence for as long as possible.
  • Speech therapy: Speech therapists can provide techniques and devices to improve communication as speech becomes affected.
  • Nutritional support: As swallowing becomes difficult, feeding tubes or other nutritional interventions may be necessary.
  • Respiratory support: Devices such as non-invasive ventilation or tracheostomy may be required to assist with breathing.
  • Multidisciplinary care: A team of healthcare professionals, including neurologists, nurses, therapists, and social workers, can provide comprehensive care and support.

Support Resources

Living with MND can be challenging, and it’s essential to have access to support resources. Some organizations that provide information, resources, and support for individuals with MND and their families include:

  • Motor Neurone Disease Association (UK): Offers a range of services, including information, support, and advocacy.
  • MND Australia: Provides support, resources, and information for Australians living with MND.
  • ALS Association (USA): Offers resources, support services, and funds research for MND/ALS.
  • International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations: A global alliance of organizations dedicated to supporting those affected by MND/ALS.

While MND is a devastating disease, ongoing research and advancements in treatment and support services aim to improve the quality of life for those affected by this condition.

Prakash Bartaula

Joined : 5 April, 2024

I’m deeply passionate about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and dedicated to exploring its intricacies. Through research, communication, and writing, I aim to shed light on NDIS provisions and empower individuals with disabilities. Join me as we navigate the transformative potential of the NDIS together.

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