Motor neuron disease

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Overview

Motor neurone disease (MND) is an uncommon condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness that gets worse over time. There's no cure for MND, but there are treatments to help reduce the impact it has on a person's daily life. Some people live with the condition for many years.

Symptoms

muscle aches, cramps, twitching.

clumsiness, stumbling.

weakness or changes in hands, arms, legs and voice.

slurred speech, swallowing or chewing difficulty.

fatigue.

muscle wasting, weight loss.

Causes

exposure to viruses.

exposure to certain toxins and chemicals.

genetic factors.

inflammation and damage to neurons caused by an immune system response.

nerve growth factors.

growth, repair and ageing of motor neurons.

Risk factors

MND can develop in adults or children, depending on the type. These diseases are more likelyTrusted Source to affect males than females. Inherited forms may be present at birth. However, MND symptoms are most likely to appear after the age of 50 yearsTrusted Source.

The different types appear to have some different risk factors. SMA, for example, is always hereditary, but this is not true for all forms of MND. Around 10%Trusted Source of ALS cases in the United States are hereditary.

Also, the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke observes that veterans appear to have a 1.5 to 2.0 timesTrusted Source higher chance of developing ALS than nonveterans. This may indicate that exposure to certain toxins increases the risk of ALS.

In addition, a 2012 studyTrusted Source found that professional football players have a higher risk of dying from ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases, compared with other people. Experts think that this could indicate a link with recurrent head trauma.

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Complications

Cardiac involvement has been occasionally described as part of the MND phenotype: cardiac denervation attributable to involvement of the sympathetic nervous system has been described in patients in the early stages of ALS. Congenital heart defects have been seen in a few cases of SMA.

Prevention

Certain dietary factors, such as higher intake of antioxidants and vitamin E, have been shown, at least in some studies, to decrease the risk of MND. Interestingly, increased physical fitness and lower body mass index (BMI) have been shown to be associated with a higher risk of MND.