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Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells (neurons) that control the muscles degenerate and die.
MND is a slowly progressive disease in that it gets steadily worse over time.
MND causes increasing disability due to muscular weakness, generally without mental impairment or incontinence.
Early symptoms are mild and include muscle wasting, muscle weakness, fasciculations (muscle twitching), difficulty swallowing and with speech, muscle cramps and spasms.
In some cases symptoms are widespread from the start but in most instances the disease starts in a localised fashion becoming more generalised as it progresses.
There are different types of MND and symptoms vary from person to person. Patterns of weakness, the rate and pattern of progression and survival time are also variable.
There is no single test for MND which makes diagnosis difficult.
Because of this diagnosis may take some time.
Diagnosis can be assisted through a range of tests, some which eliminate other conditions eg; nerve conduction tests.
The causes of MND are not yet known but this is the subject of on-going worldwide research.
Most cases occur spontaneously though some are hereditary (about 10%).
MND is uncommon but not rare. Recent statistics estimate there are approximately 1,200 people in Australia currently diagnosed with MND and about 400 new diagnoses each year.
The average age of onset is 50.
There are a range of treatments for MND aimed at reducing the symptoms and improving the quality of life for people with the condition.
A person with MND will usually require assistance from a number of health care professionals including a GP, neurologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech pathologist, psychologist, home care nurse and social worker.
Treatment requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach.
Most patients with MND experience little or no pain.
There is neither cure nor prevention for MND at this time but worldwide research is providing encouraging results.
In most cases intellect and memory are not affected by MND, nor are the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and sensation.
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