Motor neurone disease (MND) is a condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness that gets worse over time. According to the National Health Service in the UK, it is a rare but serious and incurable form of progressive neurodegeneration.
The legendary Mohktar Dahari or otherwise known as ‘Supermokh’ was among those who have died of MND at the age of 37. According to the Selangor Malaysia website, This was later revealed on a TV show entitled “The Untold Truth About Supermokh,” on the National Geographic Channel on August 30, 2010, featuring Mokhtar’s friends and family.
Based on worldwide studies, one to two people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with MND each year while in Malaysia there are around 600 new cases.
About four to six Malaysians are diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) every month, of which men are more susceptible compared to women. Although MND can appear at any age, most patients who are diagnosed with this disease are over 40 years old.
THE UNKNOWN CAUSE OF MND
For our muscles to move, signals are sent from motor neurons in the brain to the muscles and bones. They are involved in both conscious movements (such as holding and walking) and automatic movements (such as swallowing and breathing).
In MND, the nerves in the spine and brain progressively lose function, messing with the transmission of signals from the brain to the muscles and bones. Ultimately and progressively causing failure for the affected parts to move as they normally do.
According to Medical News Today , Some MNDs are inherited while others happen randomly. The exact causes are unclear, but the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS) notes that genetic, toxic, viral, and other environmental factors would most likely play a role.
There are several types of motor neurone disease. Some common ones are:
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the most common type, affecting muscles of the arms, legs, mouth, and respiratory system. Average survival time is 3 to 5 years, however with great health care, some people live 10 years or more beyond diagnosis.
Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist, suffered from this type of MND. He was diagnosed in 1963, when he was 21, and doctors initially gave him only a few years to live. He eventually died on March 14, 2018 at 76 years of age.
Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP) involves the brain stem. People with ALS often have PBP too. The condition causes frequent choking incidents, difficulty in speaking, eating, and swallowing.
Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA) slowly but progressively causes muscle wasting, especially in the arms, legs, and mouth. It may be a variation of ALS.
SYMPTOMS OF MND
Symptoms of MND happens gradually and may not be obvious at first.
Early symptoms can include:
- weakness in the individuals’ ankle or leg – he or she might trip, or find it harder to climb stairs.
- slurred speech (percakapan yang tidak jelas), which may develop into difficulty swallowing some foods.
- a weak grip – the patient might drop things, or find it hard to open jars or do up buttons
- muscle cramps and twitches
- weight loss –arms or leg muscles may have become thinner over time
- difficulty stopping crying or laughing in inappropriate situations
- the person may show changes in personality and emotional state, with episodes of uncontrollable crying or laughing.
- Tasks such as walking and breathing get increasingly difficult, and treatments like a feeding tube or breathing air through a face mask may be needed.
The condition is eventually fatal, but how long it takes to reach this stage varies a lot. A few people live for many years or even decades with MND.
TREATMENT AND SUPPORT
The National Health Service UK says, although there is no cure for MND, treatment can help reduce the impact of symptoms on the patient’s life.
- highly specialised clinics, typically involving a specialist nurse and occupational therapy to help make everyday tasks easier.
- physiotherapy and exercises to maintain strength and reduce stiffness (ketegangan).
- advice from a speech and language therapist or dietitian about diet and eating.
- a medicine called riluzole that can slightly slow down the progression of the condition.
- medicines to relieve muscle stiffness and help make swallowing easier.
- emotional support for the individual and his or her career.