Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is the most well-known and prevalent motor neuron disease (MND), however, it isn’t the only one. ALS is related to a number of motor neuron diseases.
So, what exactly is an MND? Motor Neuron Diseases are a type of neurological disease in which motor neurons degenerate over time. Motor neurons, which regulate skeletal muscle movements such as breathing, walking, speaking, and swallowing, are destroyed by MNDs. All Motor Neuron Diseases produce muscle weakness that gets worse with time, and many of them are deadly.
Motor Neuron Disease and ALS: The difference?
The question isn’t “ALS vs MND.” Admittedly, ALS is the most prevalent motor neuron disease. However, primary lateral sclerosis, progressive muscular atrophy, progressive bulbar palsy, and spinal muscular atrophy are among the disorders that fall under the MND umbrella. Some experts suspect that some of the other MNDs are actually ALS. ALS is degenerative, irreversible, and devastating, just like the other MNDs. It is invariably lethal.
Around 2 out of every 100,000 people develop ALS every year. Over 90% of ALS cases are sporadic (with no obvious family history), and only 5% to 10% of ALS cases are inherited through a mutated gene.
Other Motor Neuron Diseases At A Glance
- Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP): It is also known as progressive bulbar atrophy, and is a neurological condition that affects the lower motor neurons. Individuals with progressive bulbar palsy initially experience muscle weakness that limits their ability to chew, swallow and breathe. Since most patients with PBP ultimately acquire more widespread symptoms, many doctors also classify it as part of the ALS spectrum. PBP could signal the start of bulbar-onset ALS.
- Primary Lateral Sclerosis: It affects just the lower motor neurons and is usually misdiagnosed as ALS. It develops more gradually than ALS and is rarely deadly. Many persons with PLS will acquire upper motor neuron disease and their diagnosis changes to ALS. PLS produces voluntary muscular weakness, leading to mobility issues and poor balance.
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA): It is the most frequent motor neuron disease. It mostly affects children and newborns, unlike other MNDs. It is the leading genetic cause of newborn death. The earlier symptoms develop, the more serious they are likely to be. The majority of children who acquire SMA before the age of six months (type 1 SMA) die of respiratory failure before reaching the age of two. Adult-onset SMA, or SMA type 4, is relatively rare and causes only mild to moderate muscle atrophy.
- Pseudobulbar Palsy: It has an impact on one’s ability to speak, swallow, and chew food. It can arise in people with neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis and MND and is often defined as a syndrome rather than a disease. It can also occur as a consequence of a stroke or a brain tumour. One of its most distinguishing features is unintentional or unexpected tears and laughter.
- Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA): It only affects the lower motor neurons. The majority of PMA patients have a course of illness that is remarkably similar to that of ALS patients. In fact, some research suggests that PMA is a form of ALS. Weakness usually begins in the hands and progresses to the lower body. Muscle wastage, clumsy hand movements, trembling, muscle spasms, and breathing difficulties are all possible symptoms. Cold exposure can aggravate symptoms.
Living with MND
A multidisciplinary framework will help patients in dealing with their symptoms. Physiotherapy can help people maintain muscle strength and flexibility in their joints, while certain medications can help alleviate physical problems as well as anxiety and depression. When a disease is fatal, palliative care can help stabilize pain and symptoms while also providing interpersonal support to MND patients.