Understanding motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease (MND) is one of the names given to a group of diseases in which the brain’s upper motor neurons fail to work properly.

Other terms for this condition include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP)
  • Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease

The upper motor neurons descend to the spinal cord and activate the lower motor neurons in the body. If they fail to control the lower motor neurons, the muscles become weak. As the disease progresses MND impacts on the person’s ability to walk, talk, swallow and breathe.

There is no known cure for MND, nor is there an effective treatment. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is two and a half years.

In Australia MND affects 8.7 per cent of every 100,000 people. Over half of people living with MND are under the age of 65.

Symptoms of MND

The symptoms of MND can be broadly categorised into the early symptoms that are experienced at the onset of the disease, and additional symptoms that may develop as the disease progresses.

What are the early symptoms of MND?

  • Slurring of speech
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Cramps and muscle twitching
  • Stumbling as leg muscles weaken
  • Difficulty holding objects as hand muscles weaken

What symptoms may be experienced as MND progresses?

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Cognitive changes
  • Excessive laughing or crying
  • Some pain or discomfort

Although there is no cure for MND, support is available to help manage symptoms and support the person’s daily living needs.

Medical research is taking place around the world to find causes and a cure for MND, including many projects taking place here in Australia.

MSWA supports people living with MND

Visit our Support and Services section to see how we can assist you.

Visit Support and Services

For more information visit the MND Australia website.

Visit MND Australia