About two in 100,000 people are affected by a motor neuron disease.
Most of us learn about basic physical conditions and disabilities in biology classes. We might even study the different names of diseases on flashcards for a test.
However, for those diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorders, those words on a test become reality. Their lives are changed forever, and some everyday activities become harder.
Motor neuron diseases greatly affect individual’s lives, but many of us don’t even fully understand what they are. Below is a quick guide to learn more, so keep reading.
What Are Motor Neuron Diseases?
A motor neuron disease (MND) is a type of neurodegenerative disease in which motor neurons are progressively destroyed.
Motor neurons are essential in our body because they help control our body’s skeletal-muscle activity. These activities include speaking, walking, and breathing.
If you’ve heard of diseases such as progressive bulbar palsy, Kennedy’s disease, or post-polio syndrome, then you’ve heard of MNDs.
What Are Motor Neurons?
Understanding the severity of an MND requires understanding what motor neurons are and what they do. Motor neurons are nerve cells that act as messengers in the body.
There are two main kinds. Your body has lower and upper motor neurons. They work together to help your body complete those previously mentioned skeletal-muscle activities.
Upper body neurons hang out in your brain. If your brain wants your body to do something, such as walk to the fridge, your upper body neurons send a message down to your lower body neurons.
The lower body neurons, down in your spinal cord, send the message from your brain out to your muscles. A result of this is your body actually getting up from your chair and walking itself to the fridge.
While this is obviously a simplified example, you can still see how important these neurons are to your body.
The Effects of an MND
What we see in a muscular neuron disorder is the destruction of motor neuron cells. When these neurons die, messages don’t make it from your brain to your muscles.
You’ll start losing control over your muscles, and it becomes harder to do basic things. It also becomes dangerous because it affects a person’s breathing and swallowing. The type of effects we see in different people is dependent on the type of MND.
Specific symptoms individuals with an MND might notice include extreme stiffness in their limbs, weakness in the muscles of the mouth, and paralysis. Progression of the disease may also cause dragging of the leg or slurred speech.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with a doctor as soon as possible.
Classification of MNDs
Motor neuron diseases are classified in three main ways: upper motor neurons alone, lower motor neurons alone, or both.
In the case of upper motors alone, we might see primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). Someone diagnosed with PLS experiences degeneration of the nerves within the brain. The brain is then unable to send messages to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of PLS can include jittery legs, frequent tripping or clumsy actions, a hoarse voice, drooling, and trouble with breathing and swallowing. While it can occur in children and young adults, it’s most typical in adults above the age of 40.
When someone’s MND is classified by lower motor neurons alone, we commonly see a progressive muscular atrophy (PMA) diagnosis. With this diagnosis, you’ll also see weakness in the muscles and a decrease in reflexes.
Most people with PMA need an electric wheelchair due to not being able to walk or properly position their bodies.
As far as an upper and lower body neuron classification, many of us have heard of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It affects nerves within the brain and spinal cord.
The two main types of ALS include the sporadic type or a familial type. The sporadic classification is more common.
Unfortunately, there’s no treat for motor neuron diseases. There are only methods and medications to improve the quality and ease of life for someone diagnosed with an MND.
Many people with an MND attend frequent sessions of physical therapy to keep their bodies moving and as strong as possible. They may also use different types of braces or crutches to help stabilize their body.
If someone is unable to properly breathe or eat due to the disorder, they might choose to wear an oxygen mask and feed through a tube. While these things aren’t ideal, they’re extremely beneficial.
Some people do take preventative care of their body to help fight against neurodegeneration, including using peptide sprays. You can click here to learn more.
Survival Rate of an MND
Sadly, motor neuron disorders can greatly shorten a person’s life. Most people only survive a few years past the onset of symptoms, and few people make it to the 10-year mark. Very rarely do people make it past 10 years.
There’s no extreme pain associated with these disorders, but the loss of independence can be extremely difficult to deal with. Some maintain a strong sense of independence with support systems of medical staff, friends, and family.
While the diagnosis is shocking to patients, it’s important to remember that life doesn’t have to be dark and bleak because of it. It will require adjustments and special care, but those with this disease can still do things they enjoy.
There are also plenty of support groups to help build encouraging communities.
The More You Know: Motor Neuron Diseases
Motor neuron diseases, while not common, greatly affect the lives of many across the globe.
These diseases progressively destroy motor neurons within the body, and these neurons are much-needed messengers. As these neurons are destroyed, patients notice symptoms such as muscle weakness or stiffness, paralysis, or trouble eating and breathing. Those diagnosed with an MND require special attention to improve their quality of life.
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