June is International Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Awareness Month. Although this acronym is not widely used here in the United States, many of you may be familiar with a subtype of this disease, called ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is also the disease that Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist, lived with for 55 years.
What is MND?
Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is a degenerative disease that affects nerve function in the brain and the spinal cord. Nerves and neurons are what “tell” your muscles what to do. When these communication cells are damaged or die, the muscles do not receive commands instructing them on how to move.
This lack of communication consequently changes the way an individual living with this disease may eat, swallow food, talk, and move their arms and legs.
The most challenging point about this disease is that degeneration varies from person to person. Therefore, it is difficult to predict how the disease will take its course over an extended amount of time.
There are four main types of MND:
- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
- PBP (Progressive Bulbar Palsy)
- PMA (Progressive Muscular Atrophy)
- PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis)
ALS is the most common form of MND. Approximately 5000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year. There was an additional awareness made of this disease through the famous “ice bucket challenge.” This particular form of MND affects both upper and lower neurons, meaning this degeneration directly affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control motor function.
How is it Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of MND would require a complete medical evaluation, lab tests, and neuro-specific tests such an MRI, EMG, spinal tap, and more.
Common symptoms include:
- Muscle cramping
- Impaired use of arms and legs
- Decreased motor skills
- Weakness and fatigue
- Speech difficulties such as slurred or thick speech
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
If you want to do your part to raise awareness, check out the following facts below to learn more, and to do your part to reduce any stigmas surrounding this disability.
- MND does not impair intellect or psychological judgment
- There is currently no cure, and more research is needed to determine its source
- For the majority, the reason why MND develops is unknown, however for about 5% of cases, genetic history is present
- The typical life expectancy of this disease is short, ranging from 2-5 years (for ALS, PBP, and PMA)
- MND typically affects people 40+
- Healthy people can develop MND
- Incidence of MND is about equal to MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Through increased research, and treatment plans many MND/ALS patients have improved their life expectancy to an additional three more years
“It is never how long someone lives, but rather how well someone lives. That is why, especially with this disorder, it is important to appreciate every single day.” – Dr. Joseph Kandel
Feel free to share this with the women in your life who may benefit from this information!
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If you have any questions about Motor Neuron Disease & ALS or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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