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MND(Motor Neuron Disease)

What is MND (Motor Neuron Disease)?

Neurons are meant to transmit messages from the brain to the bones and muscles.This is what causes movements in our body. Motor Neuron Disease is a condition that affects the motor neurons.It is a progressive condition that attacks the motor nerves or neurons present in the spinal cord or the brain.The message passing mechanism is disturbed.This implies that the messages don't reach the muscles promptly.This leads to weakness in the body and an overall degraded health condition.

MND is a disease that affects the way to behave,walk, talk, breathe, eat, and drink. MND can affect children, adults, and aged people alike, so there is no age-group particularly affected by the disease. It can happen to anyone regardless of their age.

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Causes For MND:

Although the exact causes of MND are still not clear, research is still going on. There are many theories that are somewhat helpful in determining the factors related to the MND disease. Let us take a look at some factors that are estimated to play a significant role in giving rise to MND.
1. Sitting still or maintaining the same posture for extremely long periods of time,for example, during travel.
2. Genetic factors
3. Viruses and frequent infections
4. Side effects of anxiety medications
5. Surgeries or previous chemotherapy
6. Severe injuries caused by sports or vigorous exercise
7. Head injuries adversely affecting the brain
8. Exposure to harmful chemicals
9. A diet deficient in vital nutrients
10. A lifestyle involving immense stress or frequent stressful events

Motor Neuron Disease Symptoms:

The symptoms vary from person to person and do not occur at the same time.There are certain other unrelated neurological conditions with which the symptoms of MND can be confused with. Symptoms are highly dependant on which part of the body is affected first. There are mainly three areas where the early signs and symptoms of MND appear- respiratory system, mouth, and limbs (arms and legs). Some of the most common symptoms of MND are:

1. Twitching of muscles and cramping

The overall muscle health is affected which causes excessive cramping or muscle twitching.

2. Difficulty in swallowing

Since the muscles in the food canal and tongue are affected this can lead to difficulty in swallowing food.

3. Speech impairment 

Due to weakness in the muscles of the tongue, the speech of a person suffering from MND is impaired.

4. Difficulties in holding objects and maintaining a firm grip due to weakness in the arms

From small tasks such as picking up keys to sports activities like playing badminton, MND causes difficulties in performing day to day chores.

5. Not being able to walk properly without support or stumbling because of weak leg muscles

Most of the patients suffering from MND say that they feel that walking, climbing stairs, and exercising is extremely hard due to the stiffness and constant aching.

6. Shallow breathing

Since the respiratory muscles are also affected by MND, it can cause shortness of breath and other respiratory disorders.
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Stages and Types of MND:

MND can be classified into four main classes depending on which part of the body is affected first and the pattern of the involvement of motor neurons.

1. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS

In most parts of the world, MND is commonly referred to as ALS.ALS is characterized by weakness and stiffness in muscles. It results in wasting and weakness in the muscles of limbs. Both lower and upper motor neurons are adversely affected in this condition. In some cases,it also causes mood swings or rapid change in the state of emotions. Breathing pattern, speaking, and swallowing is also affected.

2. Progressive bulbar palsy or PBP

When ALS starts to affect speech and swallowing it is designated as PBP. Bulbar palsy includes the muscles that control speaking and swallowing. The bulb is located in the lower portion of the brain and the and the nerves present here are responsible for regulating the muscle movements related to swallowing and speech. Both the upper and lower motor neurons are adversely affected in this condition.

3. Progressive muscular atrophy or PMA

In this condition, only the lower motor neurons are affected and the patient can survive much longer than someone suffering from PBP and ALS. It begins in the arms or legs and is characterized by wasting, absent or compromised reflexes and weakness. Among all the other types of MND, this one is the most difficult to diagnose.

4. Primary lateral sclerosis or PLS

It is a rare case of MND in which only the upper motor neurons get affected. This disorder is inherited mostly by adult males causing wasting and weakness gradually.

Is MND a genetic disease?

Many complex genes are involved in the development of our nervous system. To some extent, MND is a genetic disease but the family members of a person suffering from MND are not at a high risk. SOD1 and C9orf72 are the two genes that are mainly associated with MND. If a person carries these two faulty genes there is a 50% chance that it can be passed on to the younger generation. It is not necessary to test family members if the symptoms haven't occurred as it will lead to unnecessary stress.

MND Treatment:

Even though there is no sure shot cure for MND, there are medications that provide relief from inconvenient conditions. They aid in maintaining a quality life. Riluzole is one medication that has been approved for MND patients. It is known to prolong the survival of the patient and make the MND less cumbersome. People who take Riluzole are less likely to reach advanced stages of the disease as compared to patients who do not take this medication.
Any therapy undertaken is focused on maximizing the comfort level of the patient. Breathing problems can be handled with the help of Yoga and other breathing exercises whereas occupational, physical, and speech therapies can be used to provide relief from other symptoms.

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