Motor neurone disease (MND) is a condition which affects the nerve cells (neurons), causing weakness in the muscles that gets worse and eventually leads to paralysis. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
What causes MND?
The cause is not known, although around 1 in 10 cases are ‘familial’ (meaning the condition is inherited).
You can’t catch it from somebody.
MND usually starts slowly, sometimes starting on one side of the body and then spreading. Usually, the first things people notice are:
- weakness in the hands and grip
- slurred speech
- weakness in the legs, and a tendency to trip
- weakness of the shoulder, making lifting difficult
- cramps and muscles twitching
Later on, people with MND:
- have little or no movement
- have trouble talking, breathing and swallowing
A few people with MND develop a type of dementia.
If you have MND, your sense of sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste won’t be affected.
MND can be hard to diagnose when the symptoms first appear because at first, it seems like a lot of other conditions.
Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist who will examine you and do various tests. These may include:
- blood tests
- muscle biopsies
- studies to measure how well your nerves and muscles work
There is no cure. Because of this, doctors and others will help you by easing your symptoms and keeping you as mobile as possible for as long as possible.
Most people with MND die within two to three years of developing the condition, however some people can live a long time.
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Last reviewed: December 2017