What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms are mild and may include:
- Stumbling due to weakness of the leg muscles
- Difficulty holding objects due to the weakness of the hand muscles
- Slurring of speech or swallowing difficulties due to weakness of the tongue and throat muscles.
- In some instances, people experience changes in their cognition and behaviour.
Emotional responses may be more easily triggered and the person with MND may be aware of laughing and crying more readily than previously.
Cramps and muscle twitching are also common symptoms.
The effects of MND - initial symptoms, rate and pattern of progression, and survival time after diagnosis - vary significantly from person to person. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is two to three years.
What remains unaffected by MND?
For most people with MND the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are not affected.
Bladder and bowel
The bowels and bladder are not affected by the disease, although diet and exercise should be carefully monitored. In the PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis) form of MND some people experience urinary urgency.
Constipation can occur, especially when people become less mobile or have to change their diet due to swallowing difficulties.
How is MND diagnosed?
It can be difficult to clinically diagnosis MND. A diagnosis can sometimes be time-consuming even for an experienced neurologist. They may need a period of observation to be sure, particularly in cases where the condition progresses slowly.
A general practitioner may suspect a neurological problem and organise referral to a neurologist (a doctor who specialises in the nervous system).
The diagnosis can be assisted through a range of tests, including some which eliminate other conditions. Nerve conduction studies (NCS) involve analysing neural function by electrical stimulation of nerves and recording muscle activity. Often an Electromyograph (EMG) is used, in which a needle is inserted into various muscles to measure their electrical activity. This can assist with both diagnosis and prognosis.