Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Illustration of nerve

Illustration of nerve
beginning of content

Motor neurone disease (MND)

3-minute read

What is MND?

Motor neurone disease (MND) is the name for a group of diseases that affects particular nerves known as motor nerves, or motor neurons. In MND, those neurons generate and die and slowly the muscles become weaker. This eventually leads to paralysis. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

What are the symptoms of MND?

MND is a progressive disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. Symptoms 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.

What causes MND?

The exact cause of MND is not known. You can’t catch MND from somebody.

Generally, MND is believed to be caused because of a combination of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors.

Most cases of MND occur spontaneously without any identifiable cause. Around 1 in 10 cases are ‘familial’ (meaning the condition is inherited) due to a genetic mutation (or error in the gene).

If a person has an MND-related genetic mutation, their children have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the MND-related genetic mutation.

If a person in your family has MND, other people in the family can be tested to see if they have the genetic mutation.

People who inherit the genetic mutation have a high chance of developing MND, but not all people with the genetic mutation will develop MND.

How is MND diagnosed?

MND can be hard to diagnose when the symptoms first appear because it seems like a lot of other conditions at first.

You may have a range of tests, some which eliminate other conditions.

Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist who will examine you and do various tests. These may include:

How is MND treated?

There is no cure, but a lot can be done to ease your symptoms, maintain quality of life and keep you as mobile as possible for as long as possible.

Most people with MND die within 2 to 3 years of developing the condition, however some people can live a long time.

See MND Australia's guide about end of life care for people living with MND.

Resources and support

MND Associations in each state provides individualised support to people with MND. To find the MND Association in your state, visit the MND Australia website, which also has a range of resources for people with MND and their family and friends.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Types of MND | MND Australia

Motor neurone disease (MND) causes a range of symptoms and you may be diagnosed with a type of MND depending on the ways your symptoms present

Read more on MND Australia website

Medication for MND | MND Australia

While there is no cure for motor neurone disease (MND) yet, there is a medication available in Australia, called Riluzole, for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and progressive bulbar palsy (PBP) – the most common types of MND

Read more on MND Australia website

What is motor neurone disease (MND?) | MND Australia

In 90-95% cases of MND the cause is unknown

Read more on MND Australia website

Physical activity and MND | MND Australia

Motor neurone disease (MND) weakens muscles across the body, affecting amongst other things mobility, movement and physical activity

Read more on MND Australia website

MND information sessions | MND Australia

If you’d like to learn about what helps after a diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND), how to live with MND and the latest in MND research, then MND information sessions are a great way to find more information in a friendly environment

Read more on MND Australia website

MND clinics | MND Australia

People living with motor neurone disease are likely to need advice about mobility, communication, breathing, nutrition, managing other symptoms and getting community support

Read more on MND Australia website

Motor neurone disease -

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a progressive neurological disorder which usually strikes people in middle and later life.

Read more on myDr website

MND background information sheet | MND Australia

Motor neurone disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases in which motor neurones progressively die

Read more on MND Australia website

MND research | MND Australia

Throughout the year there are opportunities to learn more about MND research

Read more on MND Australia website

Diagnosing MND | MND Australia

There is no single diagnostic test for MND

Read more on MND Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo