What is motor neurone disease?
The muscles that allow us to speak, breath, swallow, and move around are all controlled by nerve cells called neurones. In motor neurone disease (MND) these neurones stop working normally. Muscles need to be used to stay strong and function properly, and without neurons to activate them, muscles gradually weaken and waste. The muscle weakness can start anywhere in the body, and progression of MND varies from person to person. Often, MND begins with weakness of the muscles in the hands or feet, and eventually leads to generalised paralysis. Loss of muscle function can be incredibly debilitating, and people with motor neurone disease often need support and help with daily activities. Depending on the severity of their condition, a person may need a part-time or full-time carer. While some people can live a long time with MND, the average life expectancy is 2 to 3 years from diagnosis.
What are the causes of motor neurone disease?
Around 5-7% of cases of MND are hereditary, caused by inheritance of genetic mutations. Of hereditary cases, about 40% are caused by C9ORF72 gene mutation, and about 20% are caused by mutations of the superoxide dismutase-1 gene.
In the other 93-95% of cases the cause of MND remain unknown. Factors that are suspected of playing a role in MND include abnormal growth, repair and ageing of motor neurons, imbalances of the brain chemical glutamate, viral infections, environmental toxins, inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction.
Symptoms of motor neurone disease
Early symptoms of MND include weakness of the muscles of the hands and legs. A person may notice that they cannot grasp objects in a firm grip, or are more clumsy than usual. The tongue and throat muscles may weaken, and a person may notice that their speech is slurred and they have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, muscle twitching, cramps, muscle pain, and emotional lability. The sense of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch are not usually affected by MDN. Nor are bowel and bladder control.
Diagnostic considerations in motor neurone disease
At The Health Lodge, we may be interested in running tests to gather more information to help us manage all aspects of your health.
- Nutritional deficiencies are common in MND, as so we may screen for a number of nutrient deficiencies and work with diet and supplements to correct these
- Checking inflammatory markers is also important as inflammation is thought to play a role in MND
- It may also be beneficial to test for heavy metal toxicities using hair mineral analysis, and blood and urine tests, as heavy metals can affect your mental wellbeing and the health of your neurological system, and are suspected of playing a role in some cases of MND
- If depression or anxiety is a major factor in your health, it may be important to test for zinc deficiency and copper overload, metabolic abnormalities such as raised urinary pyrroles, and genetic factors including MTHFR gene polymorphisms. These factors can all play major roles in your psychological wellbeing.
Treatment options for motor neurone disease
Early education is very important in managing MND. Knowing the progression of the disease allows people to plan ahead and find the care they need in managing current and future symptoms. We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of motor neurone disease. A coordinated, integrated team approach to your care helps you live better, and may help you to live longer with MND. Health professionals that you may have in you health care team include:
- A GP and/or neurologist for regular check-ups and advice on medications.
- A Psychologist for you emotional and mental wellbeing, as living with a disease can be incredibly emotionally distressing and mentally taxing
- A Naturopath to prevent nutritional deficiencies
- A Respiratory specialist if you experience breathing difficulties
- An Occupational therapist if you require skills and equipment to help you carry out daily living activities
- A Speech pathologist to help with issues of speech, swallowing, and eating
- An Osteopath and/or physiotherapist to help with joint stiffness and structural problems
- Carers to help with daily living needs
This comprehensive and holistic team approach is designed to support all aspects of your health, including your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
For enquiries call The Health Lodge on 02 6685 6445