Getting Enough to Eat and Drink
As the muscles involved in chewing, moving food
towards the back of the mouth, and swallowing weakens in MND, eating and
drinking become less pleasurable and more hazardous and time consuming. The
most serious problems are outright choking, obstruction of the
trachea, or windpipe, by a piece of food and aspiration, which means
inhaling food or liquid into the lungs instead of routing it down the
oesophagus into the stomach. Normally, the throat muscles protect us from
aspirating food or drink, but they may lose their ability to do this as MND
advances. Later, if swallowing becomes very hazardous and eating takes a
great deal of unrewarding time and energy, the therapist and doctor may ask
the patient to consider the insertion of a tube that goes directly into the
stomach. If it's still possible to swallow some foods or liquids safely, the
MND patient can continue to eat and drink after placement of a feeding tube,
but the swallowing mechanism no longer has to be relied on as the sole
method of obtaining adequate nutrition. This can be a relief to those who
can not take in enough calories by mouth because they get too tired or are
afraid of choking or aspirating food.
Maintaining Respiratory Function
Perhaps the most serious medical complication in
MND is the gradual deterioration of the muscles involved in breathing. The
diaphragm is an arched muscle located just beneath the lungs, which
moves up and down and allows air to come in and move out. The
intercostals are muscles between the ribs that contract and relax and
also assist with air movement. As these muscles weaken, the act of
breathing, which is entirely automatic for most people, becomes conscious
and energy consuming.
Emotional and Intellectual Life
Although MND shortens life, it doesn't have to
destroy it. An enormous number of people with MND have rich emotional lives
with their families and friends, continue with existing careers or interests
or find new ones. People with MND are artists, writers, readers, computer
specialists, physicists, doctors and parents. Many people with MND,
sometimes to the surprise of health care professionals and co-workers,
maintain a sense of perspective and humour.
WHAT CAUSES MND?
Years ago, it was widely believed that there might
be one cause to explain all cases of MND. Today, doctors and scientists know
that can not be the case. Together, they are working to identify the
multiple causes of the disorder.