Motor neuron disease is a rare but devastating illness which leads to progressive paralysis and eventual death. Motor neurons are nerve cells that control the muscles required for movement such as walking, control of hands and arms, eating, swallowing, breathing and speaking. Damage to these nerves causes muscle weakness and wasting. Here is some basic information about motor neuron disease.

Physical effects of motor neuron disease

People with motor neuron disease may have some physical problems, which may lead to many challenges to their life. The physical effects of motor neuron disease can include the following:

· Muscle weakness or wasting in the hands or feet
· Difficulty in swallowing or slurred speech
· Muscle twitching
· Cramps
· Emotional changeability
· Fatigue
· Weight loss

Causes of motor neuron disease

The causes of motor neuron disease are still unknown to us. Suspected causes that are being studied include the following:

· Virus factor
· Toxins factor
· Genetic factors
· Immune factors
· Nerve growth factors
· Chemical factor

Familial (hereditary) motor neuron disease accounts for about five to ten percent of cases. Several gene mutations have been identified since 1993, and current research aims to identify further genes linked to motor neuron disease.

Complications of motor neuron disease

There are many effects and complications related to motor neuron disease. People with motor neuron disease can develop serious complications if proper and timely treatments are not received. Possible complications of motor neuron disease:

· Generalised paralysis (paralysis of both sides of the body)
· Loss of speech as a means of communication
· An average life expectancy of one to five years after diagnosis
· Respiratory failure and death
· Pneumonia due to infection or aspiration
· Urinary tract infections
· Constipation
· Spasticity and cramping of muscles
· Depression problems
· Immobility and attendant disability
· Complications of immobility such as skin infections/bedsores and ulcers
· Cognitive deterioration

Although there is no cure for motor neuron disease, it is regarded as a treatable disease. People with motor neuron disease should receive proper treatment to avoid worse outcomes.