Motor neuron diseases are a cluster of nervous conditions that cause the nerves in the spine and brain to lose their functions gradually. Motor neurons are nerve cells that send electrical signals to the muscles, affecting the muscles ability to function.
Common causes of motor neuron diseases include viral infections, toxic insults, genetic factors, immune mediated disease; environmental factors can cause degeneration of motor neuron. In many cases, the motor neuron diseases are hereditary in nature. Men are at greater risk of this condition, especially after the age of 40 years.
Signs And Symptoms
Symptoms of motor neuron disease can be divided into three stages, early, middle, and advanced.
- Weakening grip of hands
- Weakness in the arms and legs
- Muscle pains
- Cramps and twitches
- Slurred and garbled speech
- Raised clumsiness and stumbling
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Shortness of breath.
Middle stage symptoms mainly include increased muscle pain with spasms and twinges. Lastly, advanced stage symptoms include inability to move, eat, or breathe without any physical or mechanical help.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Diagnosis comprises of blood and urine tests, MRI brain scan, electromyography, nerve conduction study, and spinal tap or lumbar puncture. Treatments focus on reducing the progress rate of the condition and increasing the patient independence and comfort. This involves the use of mechanical appliances for breathing, feeding, mobility and communication. Rehabilitation therapies such as physical, occupational and speech therapy are advised.