In motor neuron disease there’s progressive degeneration of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle action resulting in weakness and wasting of the muscles. Some kinds of motor neuron disease are inherited.
What Are The Symptoms?
In the first period of the disease, there’s weakness and wasting, developing over a few months and usually changing muscles of the hands, arms or legs. Other early symptoms may include:
- twitching movements in the muscles
- stiffness and muscle cramps
- difficulty performing twisting motions, for example unscrewing bottle tops and turning keys. As the disorder progresses, other symptoms may include:
- pulling °ne foot or a tendency to stumble when walking
- difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from low chairs
- less commonly, slurred speech, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing if the muscles of the mouth and throat are involved
- mood swings, anxiety and depression
- repeated chest infections and possibly pneumonia, if the muscles involved in breathing and swallowing are changed and small particles of food enter the lungs
- the head falling forwards because the muscles in the neck are too feeble to support it
- eventually, difficulty in breathing on account of weakness of the muscles that control respiration.
What Exactly Is The Treatment?
At present, no treatment can significantly slow down the progression of motor neuron
Disorder, although a new drug called riluzole may have a modest effect. Treatment for symptoms may include antidepressants to alleviate depression and antibiotics to treat chest infections.
A gastrostomy may be done to treat difficulty consuming. This is a surgically created opening through which a permanent feeding tube is inserted right into the stomach or the small intestine.
Usually, a team of specialists will be available to provide support and care for an affected person and members of their family. Counselling may be offered to both, and the affected person may be given physiotherapy to help keep joints and muscles supple.