WHAT IS MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE (MND) OR AS IT IS
SOMETIMES KNOWN, AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS)?
MND/ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
is a disease of the parts of the nervous system that control voluntary
muscle movement. The word amyotrophic means "without muscle
nourishment," and refers to the loss of signals the nerves normally send to
the muscles. Lateral means "to the side," and refers to the location
of the damage in the spinal cord. Sclerosis means "hardened," and
refers to the hardened nature of the spinal cord in advanced MND. In the
United States, MND/ALS is also called Lou Gehrig's disease, after the
Yankees baseball player who died of it in 1941. In Britain and elsewhere in
the world, ALS is often called motor neuron disease, in reference to
the cells that are lost in this disorder.
WHAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE WITH MND?
In MND, nerve cells that control muscle cells are
gradually lost. In most cases, the cause is unknown. As these motor
neurons are lost, the muscles they control become weak and then non
functional. Eventually, the person with MND is paralysed. Death, usually
from respiratory complications, typically comes between three and five years
after diagnosis. Although not typical of the condition, British physicist
Stephen Hawking has had MND since the 1960s and is still able to write and
practice his profession.
It's important to note that the involuntary
muscles, such as those that control the heartbeat, gastrointestinal tract,
bowel and bladder functions are not directly affected in MND.
Pain is not a major component of the disorder, although moderate pain can
certainly occur as a result of immobility. Cramps in the legs are quite
common. Hearing, vision, touch and intellectual ability generally remain
quite normal. Some experts believe that certain emotional changes may be
attributed directly to the disease process.