Posted on 01/06/2018
June is national Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness month. As a communication disorder charity, we regularly hear the stories of those who have MND as the condition often results in reduced mobility and ability to control one’s muscles. This is the very same disorder that our late patron, Professor Stephen Hawking had been living with.
What is MND?
Motor Neurone disease describes a group of diseases that affect the nerves in the brain and spinal cord responsible for telling your muscles what to do. The messages sent from these nerves gradually stop reaching the muscles which leads to them weakening, stiffening and eventually wasting away. The condition can alter the way a person walks, talks, eats and even breathes. But it affects everybody differently. The rate at which the symptoms develop can vary from person to person which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict.
There is currently no cure for MND and scientists are not sure what causes it. It is thought that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are the cause, but in many incidences, there is no family history of the condition. The disease is life-shortening and often leaves those with it confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for themselves or communicate. The condition can affect adults of any age but is more likely to affect those over 50 years old and around 5000 adults in the UK have MND at any one time.
Different Types of MND
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common form of MND and the type Professor Stephen Hawking had. ALS is associated with weakness and wasting in the limbs, muscle stiffness and cramps. Someone may notice they are tripping or dropping things and life expectancy is usually 2- years from the onset of symptoms.
Bulbar onset MND or Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP) affects a smaller number of people than typical ALS and mainly affects the muscles of the face, throat and tongue often resulting in slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. Life expectancy is between 6 months and 3 years of symptoms developing.
Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA) only affects a small proportion of people with early symptoms being weakness or clumsiness of the hands and life expectancy being no more than five years.
Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) is a rare form of MND which mainly causes weakness in the lower limbs, although speech and hand mobility issues can be affected. PLS progresses very slowly and life expectancy can be between 10-20 years.
If you would like to learn more about MND then head to the Motor Neuron Disease Association website. If you have been affected by inherent speech or are non-verbal as a result of MND or any other condition, you can apply for a communication device through The Sequal Trust, see how we can help here.