What is Motor Neurone Disease?
Motor neurone disease is a condition that progressively damages the nervous system and causes the muscles to waste away.
Motor neurons, which control muscles activity like walking, speaking, breathing and swallowing, stop working properly. It is unclear what causes motor neurone disease.
There are three main types of motor neurone disease, which have similar symptoms but progress in different ways. These are Limb-onset disease, Bulbar-onset disease and Respiratory-onset disease.
How common is Motor Neurone Disease?
Motor neurone disease is rare. It affects around 2 in every 100,000 people in England every year. The disease usually develops around 60 years of age, and it is slightly more common in men.
What are the symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease?
There are three stages of symptoms of motor neurone disease. Initial stage symptoms include muscle weakness, slurred speech and shortness of breath depending on the type of disease.
Advanced symptoms include muscle spasms, pain, difficulty swallowing and communicating, excessive yawning and drooling and breathing difficulties. End stage symptoms include total body paralysis and significant breathing difficulties.
How is Motor Neurone Disease treated?
There's currently no cure for motor neurone disease. Treatment aims to make the patient comfortable and compensate for loss of bodily function. Breathing tubes and masks are often used, and a medication called riluzole can slightly increase the lifespan of some sufferers.
Many people with motor neurone disease draw up an advanced directive which makes their treatment preferences known in advance in case they cannot communicate at later stages.
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