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Health Fact Sheet
Motor Neurone Disease or
Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis

 

WHO GETS MND?

MND usually strikes in late middle age (the late 50s is average) or later, although there has been an increasing number of cases of MND in young adults, as well as in very elderly people.  Men are somewhat more likely to develop MND than are women. Studies suggest an overall ratio of about 1.2 men to every woman who develops the disorder.

For years, experts have tried to find factors common to people who develop MND, such as environmental toxins, occupational hazards, places of work or residence. So far, the evidence for such risk factors and triggers has been unclear.

HOW IS MND DIAGNOSED?

MND usually announces itself with persistent weakness or spasticity in an arm, hand or finger and sometimes in a leg, foot or toe causing difficulty using the affected limb, or in the muscles controlling speech or swallowing, leading to difficulty with these functions. It isn't unusual for people to ignore such problems for some time (perhaps months) at this stage or to consult a doctor who may be relatively unconcerned. However, the disease doesn't stop there. It generally spreads from one part of the body to another, almost always in parts adjacent to each other, so that eventually the problem can no longer be ignored.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT MND?

Although MND research is proceeding at an unprecedented pace, only one medication has been found to be somewhat effective against the disease. That medication, riluzole (brand name Rilutek), has a modest effect in prolonging survival.                                             

Several other medications are now in clinical trials.

Until a definitive treatment or cure is found for MND, clinics and centres use a team approach to patient care that mobilizes a variety of health care professionals, all of whom aim to alleviate symptoms, maintain function and independence, prolong life and offer guidance for those with this disorder and their families.

Preserving Communication

For many people with MND, the loss of mobility and strength is less distressing than the loss of the ability to speak. This may occur as the muscles in the mouth and throat that control speech and the muscles that help generate the pressure that moves air over the vocal cords lose power over time.

A therapist can help the person with MND learn to use an electronic device (there are a variety on the market) that can substitute for speech.

 

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