Motor neurone disease (MND)
There are 5000 people at any one time in the UK with motor neurone disease. It is a fatal neurological disease with an average survival of three to five years.
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MND is the name given to a relatively rare group of disorders, the most common form being called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerves and muscle.
Ten percent of sufferers have the so-called inherited form, and can pass the condition onto their children. There is currently no cure.
MND destroys the nerves responsible for voluntary movements. Normally, these nerves act as the messenger, translating and relaying our wish to move, from the brain to the particular muscles required. In MND, these nerves progressively die so that the muscles no longer receive these messages, resulting in paralysis and loss of voluntary movement.
Eventually, nearly all muscles become paralysed and so the sufferer is unable to move. It may also affect the muscles required to talk and swallow and patients may end up unable to communicate or eat a normal diet.
The muscles for breathing are also frequently affected and patients often require a machine to help them breathe. Mental abilities are not usually affected and therefore patients generally remain aware of their deteriorating physical condition. Death normally occurs in 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms, most commonly as a result of the breathing difficulties.