The French Neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot first described Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 1874. The term Motor Neurone Disease, describes a group of related diseases, affecting the motor nerves or neurones in the brain and spinal cord, which pass messages to the muscles telling them what to do.
What Does It Affect?
MND is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the upper and lower motor neurones.
Degeneration of the motor neurones leads to weakness and wasting of muscles, causing increasing loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.
The muscles first affected tend to be those in the hands, feet and mouth, dependent on which type of the disease you are diagnosed with.
MND does not usually affect the senses or the bladder and bowel. Some people may experience changes in thinking and behaviour, often referred to as cognitive impairment, but only a very few will experience severe cognitive change.
The effects of MND can vary enormously from person to person, from the presenting symptoms, and the rate and pattern of the disease progression, to the length of survival time after diagnosis.
Motor Neurone Disease can be extremely difficult to diagnose for several reasons:
- It is a comparatively ‘rare’ disease
- The early symptoms can be quite slight, such as clumsiness, mild weakness or slightly slurred speech, all of which can be attributed to other reasons. It can be some time before someone feels it necessary to see a GP
- The disease affects each individual in a different way, so there is no definitive set of symptoms.
There is no specific way of testing for MND, which means diagnosis requires the elimination of other potential conditions. See Tests.
Who is at risk of developing MND?
In recent years there is evidence to suggest the incidence of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is increasing. This could possibly be due to more accurate diagnostic testing. Also, as people are generally living for longer, the incidence of a disease more common in older people will continue to increase.
It is difficult to be exact, but statistics for Motor Neurone Disease tell us that:
- It can affect any adult at any age but most people diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 40, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 50 and 70
- Men are affected approximately twice as often as women
- The incidence or number of people who will develop MND each year is about two people in every 100,000
- The prevalence or number of people living with MND at any one time is approximately seven in every 100,000
What causes MND?
Each individual may be affected by a different combination of triggers, both genetic and environmental, which makes it very difficult to determine precise markers for the disease. If you would like to know more about developments within research, you may wish to refer to our research pages and information about the causes of the disease.