Motor Neurone Disease (MND)

By: Joe Swails

What is motor neurone disease?
In your brain you have nerve cells called motor neurones. Motor neurones send messages from you brain to your muscles and joints. This is how you are able to move your arm, your leg or your finger, etc., whenever you wish – your brain’s motor neurones ‘tell’ these limbs and joints to move by relaying a signal to the appropriate muscles (i.e. depending upon which joint or muscle you wish to move).

Also, when you do automatic things, such as swallow or breathe, these actions are all controlled by your motor neurones.

Motor neurone disease develops when your motor neurones lose their function. The exact cause of why this occurs is as yet unknown.

Motor neurone disease leads to the wasting and weakness of your muscles, preventing your from carrying out even basic tasks properly.

Basic symptoms of motor neurone disease include:

Loss of mobility, due to the muscle wastage and weakness of your limbs

Speech problems

Difficulty swallowing

Excessive drooling

Breathing problems (ranging from mild to severe)

Stiff joints

Muscle twitches

Muscle cramps

Muscle spasms

Aches and pains

Constipation and/or incontinence

Personality change (this occurs only in some cases)


Also, many people with motor neurone disease suffer from depression. If you are caring for someone with motor neurone disease, please see contact details for the Depression Alliance in the Advice & Support section at the foot of this article.

Despite worldwide medical research, the exact cause of motor neurone disease is as yet unknown. However, some healthcare professionals suggest that the disease may be caused by either environmental or lifestyle factors.

Also, it may be possible to have a genetic predisposition to developing motor neurone disease. That is, you have a family history of it and therefore the heightened risk of you developing the condition has been passed down.

If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, arrange an appointment with your GP immediately. After taking your medical history and asking your some questions about your symptoms, your GP will then carry out a physical examination and ask you to agree to tests at your local (or nearest) hospital. These tests include an MRI scan and/or an EMG (electromyelogram) – a test that measures the electrical activity in your body.

You may be referred to a neurologist. This is to rule out other possible neurological conditions.

If all other possible causes of your symptoms are ruled out, and a confirmed diagnosis of motor neurone disease is made, you will then be placed in the care of a multi-disciplinary care team as your embark upon an appropriate course of treatment.

Effect on your life
Being diagnosed with motor neurone disease can be an extremely traumatic and upsetting experience both for the patient and their family. If possible, it is advisable to take someone who is emotionally strong with you to your consultations, to act as a support.

Motor neurone disease nurse specialists are fully trained and experienced in responding to patients’ questions. They will understand your needs and do all they can to offer emotional support.

There is no known cure for motor neurone disease. Treatments are intended to slow down the progress of the condition and also to lessen the impact of symptoms.

These treatments include:

A prescribed medication called Riluzole – this slows down the progression of motor neurone disease by reducing the amount of glutamate in the body (glutamate is a major chemical messenger in the nervous system. When glutamate increases to excess levels, this can result in nerve damage). Although Riluzole is proven in being effective, it also triggers a range of unpleasant side effects (e.g., nausea, drowsiness, and increased heart-rate).

A mask ventilator system – used at night, the mask helps to slow the progress of the condition – it works as you sleep.

Occupational therapy – physiotherapy techniques which are used to reduce muscle stiffness and to try to regain some control over mobility.

Complementary therapies – relaxation techniques to help alleviate symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

General prescribed medication to help ease the associated symptoms of motor neurone disease, such as aches and pains, muscle stiffness, muscle cramps and spasms, and constipation.

Note: For depression, you may be prescribed anti-depressants and emotional support (this is support from a trained counsellor experienced in helping people with motor neurone disease to cope better with their condition).

How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have a range of treatments which can help ease constipation.

We can also offer you painkilling remedies for general aches and pains.

Advice & Support
Motor Neurone Disease Association
Tel. 08457 626 262

Brain and Spine Foundation
Tel: 0808 808 1000

Depression Alliance
Tel: 0845 123 23 20

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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