The body functions by using cells which are known as nerves or neurons to transmit impulses. In our body, there are three different kinds of nerves: autonomic neurons, motor neurons, and sensory neurons. The motor nerves are responsible for sending the signals from your spinal cord and brain to every muscle in your body. They are also responsible for controlling the contraction of the muscles and permitting such actions as catching a baseball, wiggling your fingers, and kicking a soccer ball. If you have motor neurone disease, you may have trouble to do these activities.
What Is Motor Neurone Disease?
Motor neurone disease, or MND, occurs when the motor nerves begin to break down and stop working. The muscles themselves lose their stamina because the nerves no longer work. There has been a good deal of research as to what actually sets off motor neurone diseases. However, the exact cause is still not known. It is suspected that environmental factors may trigger this disease. Research continues in order to pinpoint the underlying causes.
There are several types of MND and although the motor neurone disease early symptoms start out differently, in the end they all share the same symptoms.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is the classical kind of MND. It usually begins in the feet and hands, and the muscles grow more and more weak as time goes on.
- Progressive bulbar palsy, or PBP, affects around 2 out of every 10 people who suffer from MND. The muscle weakness affects the bulbar group which is required for swallowing, talking and chewing.
- Progressive muscular atrophy, or PMA, is not as common as the first two types. The areas that are affected are usually the feet and hands. The small muscles are compromised even though the muscles do not become stiff.
- Primary lateral sclerosis, or PLS, is an even more rare kind of MND. The symptoms of PLS include weak leg muscles, speech problems and clumsy hands.
What Are the Symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease?
Each of the motor neurone diseases begins differently, but they all develop through three similar stages: the initial stage, the advanced stage and the end stage.
1. The Initial Symptoms
Motor neurone disease's symptoms begin slowly, and they are often undiagnosed as a motor neurone disease because they are easily mistaken for other conditions that have to do with the nervous system.
- Limb-related symptoms. About two-thirds of the people who have a motor neurone disease show symptoms in their arms or legs first. Limb symptoms can start with difficulty in holding things or picking up things with the hands. A weakened grip is usually followed by a weak shoulder, resulting in a compromised range of motion. Finally, weakness in the hip or ankle will cause tripping over the feet. Although these symptoms are not painful, they could be joined by muscle cramps and muscle twitching.
- Bulbar-related symptoms. In one-third of the cases,difficulties show up in the muscles that are used for swallowing and speaking. Slurred speech is called dysarthria and problems swallowing are called dysphagia.
- Respiratory-related symptoms. Even though it is rare, there are cases of motor neurone disease that begin in the lungs which can cause respiratory symptoms. Breathing difficulties and shortness are the telltale signs.
Other signs of this disease include waking up several times in a night because your brain may be temporarily deficient in oxygen while lying down. If this happens, you will most likely feel tired in the morning or have a sharp headache.
2. The Advanced Symptoms
As the motor neurone disease worsens, more parts of the body begin to become affected.
- Weak muscles. As your limbs get weaker, your muscles will deteriorate, making it harder to move.
- Spasms. You will most likely experience still muscles or spasticity.
- Pain. Between the stiffness and muscles wasting, you will have more and more aches and pains.
- Swallowing and speaking difficulties. Although increasing difficulties in either or both of these areas is common, it is not usually fatal.
- Problems with saliva. When swallowing problems develops, the saliva becomes thick and it is hard to clear the throat or chest.
- Excessive yawning. This is another common but more annoying symptoms than anything else. It could lead to pain in the jaw, but it is nothing serious.
- Changes in emotions. With all of the changes going on, patients may experience extremes in emotions such as crying or laughinguncontrollably.
- Changes in mental abilities. The degree of changes in a patient’s mental abilities is so slight that it is hard to distinguish between normal changes that come with age. There is a 10 percent chance that the patient will suffer from frontotemporal dementia after the first symptoms pertaining to their muscles begin.
- Difficulty breathing. As the muscles become weakened, it may become increasingly hard to breathe. A mask may be used in order to get a sound night’s sleep.
3. The End-Stage Symptoms
As the disease reaches the final stage, the patient will begin to require help with more and more daily activities due to an increase in overall body paralysis. In addition, there will be an increase in the shortness of breath. There isn’t much that will help this condition and most patients spend much of their time in a drowsy state, resulting in a deep sleep. And many people will end up passing away in their sleep.
How to Treat Motor Neurone Disease
- Medications.There is only one medication that is approved by the FDA to treat motor neurone disease and it is called riluzole. It does not actually treat the symptoms, but it can extend the life of a patient for a few months.
- Symptoms Medicines
Baclofen and benzodiazepines
Drooling or jaw spasms
Amitriptyline, glycopyolate, atropine and botulinum injections
Anticonvulsants and NSAIDS
- Complementary Therapies.Occupational therapy, physical therapy, and rehabilitation can help with motion and mobility, improve posture and slow muscle weakness.
- Diet and Nutrition Supplements. If the patient is still able to eat without problems, they should maintain a healthy diet for weight and strength. If not, they may have to use a feeding tube.