What is MND? Symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease explained, is it genetic, and when to see a doctor

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There is no cure for MND, but there are treatments that help lessen the impact on a person’s daily life

Motor neuron disease (MND) primarily affects people between the ages of 60 and 70, but can affect adults of any age.

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But what is the condition, what are the symptoms and is it genetic?

Here’s what you need to know.

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What is motor neuron disease and is it genetic?

The NHS explains that it “causes weakness that gets worse over time”.

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MND primarily affects people in their 60s and 70s, but it can affect adults of all ages.

It’s caused by a problem with cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurons. These cells gradually stop working over time, but it is not known why this happens.

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Having a close relative with MND or a related condition called frontotemporal dementia can sometimes mean you’re more likely to get it, but in most cases it doesn’t run in families.

If a close relative has MND or frontotemporal dementia and you are concerned you may be at risk for it, your GP may refer you for genetic counseling to discuss your risk and possible tests.

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New research has also recently found that frequent strenuous exercise increases the risk of MND in people with a genetic predisposition to developing the condition.

The researchers said the study is a significant step forward in understanding the link between high levels of physical activity and the development of the condition.

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What are the symptoms of MND?

Symptoms of motor neuron disease come on gradually and may not be obvious at first.

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Early symptoms can be:

  • Weakness in your ankle or leg – you may trip or have difficulty climbing stairs
  • slurred speech which may develop into difficulty swallowing some foods
  • a weak grip – you might drop things or find it difficult to open jars or fasten buttons
  • muscle spasms and twitches
  • Weight loss – your arm or leg muscles may have become thinner over time
  • Difficulty keeping yourself from crying or laughing in inappropriate situations

When should I see a GP and what are the tests for MND?

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You should see a GP if you have possible early symptoms of motor neuron disease, such as: B. Muscle weakness.

You should also see a family doctor if a close relative has motor neuron disease or frontotemporal dementia and you’re concerned you might be at risk.

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Your GP may refer you to genetic counseling to discuss your risk and possible tests.

There is no single test for MND and several conditions cause similar symptoms, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose motor neuron disease in the early stages.

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To rule out other disorders, a neurologist may arrange:

  • blood tests
  • a scan of your brain and spine
  • Tests to measure electrical activity in your muscles and nerves
  • a lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap) – when a thin needle is used to remove and test the fluid from your spine

What is the treatment for MND?

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The NHS says: “There is no cure for motor neuron disease, but treatment can help reduce the impact of the symptoms on your life.”

You will be cared for by a team of specialists and a general practitioner.

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  • highly specialized clinics, usually a specialist nurse and occupational therapy to facilitate everyday tasks
  • Physical therapy and exercises to maintain strength and reduce stiffness
  • Advice from a speech and language therapist
  • Advice from a nutritionist on diet and nutrition
  • a medicine called riluzole, which may slightly slow down the progression of the disease
  • Medicines to relieve muscle stiffness and help with salivary problems
  • emotional support for you and your caregiver