What is Motor Neurone Disease

People who receive a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND), and those close to them, are very likely to have feelings of shock, anger and despair. The shock experienced when hearing the diagnosis frequently means that people do not remember very much of what their Neurologist has explained to them at the time of diagnosis. The questions they most frequently ask, and the answers commonly given are listed below.

General Questions

1What is Motor Neurone Disease?
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones (nerves). It is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable us to move, speak, swallow and breathe undergo degeneration and die. The cause of MND is unknown and not all symptoms of the disease necessarily happen to everyone with the patterns of weakness varying from person to person. MND is diagnosed in people of all ages, men and women. Currently there is no cure, however symptoms can be managed to help the person achieve the best possible quality of life. The Motor Neurone Disease Association of WA is the specialist organisation in Western Australia for people living with MND, their carers and families providing vital care and support services. Click here to learn more about our services.
2The Symptoms?
Symptoms and the rate of progression of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) vary significantly from person to person. Early symptoms may be mild and may include; stumbling due to weakness of the leg muscles, difficulty holding objects due to weakness of the hand muscles, slurring of speech or difficulty swallowing due to weakness of the tongue and throat muscles or cramps and muscle twitches. For more information on symptoms of MND download MND Australia's More Facts brochure
3Diagnosis and Tests
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) can be difficult to diagnose because the initial symptoms can be similar to many other conditions. Your doctor may suspect a neurological problem and will refer you to a neurologist. You may then be sent for a series of diagnostic tests which may include:

  • Blood tests to look for a rise in a creatine kinase, which is produced when muscle breaks down.
  • Nerve conduction studies (NCS), which involve taping electrodes over nerves and recording muscle activity when nerves are stimulated by electrical impulses.
  • Electromyography (EMG), which involves inserting a needle electrode into muscles to measure their electrical activity.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI), scans, which involve being placed in a cylinder-like machine. The machine takes images of the internal structures of the body and can show up damaged areas. An MRI scan will not diagnose Motor Neurone Disease, as the damage caused by this disease does not show up on this scan. However, it may be used to eliminate other conditions which can mimic symptoms of MND.
  • Source: MND Australia If you are concerned that you may have a neurological condition, please visit your doctor and discuss your concerns and symptoms. Your doctor will be required to refer you on for further testing if they suspect a problem.
4What remains unaffected?
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) does not usually affect the senses (sight, sound, and touch) or the bladder and bowel, although diet and exercise should be carefully monitored. Some people may experience changes in thinking and behaviour but only few will experience severe cognitive change.