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. It attacks the nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work. 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 (sight, sound, touch) or the bladder and bowel. Some people may experience changes in thinking and behaviour, often referred to as cognitive impairment, but only a few will experience severe cognitive change.
There is no cure for MND and 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.
It is difficult to be exact, but statistics for motor neurone disease tell us that:
> A person's lifetime risk of developing MND is up to 1 in 300
> Six people per day are diagnosed with MND in the UK
> It affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time > Around 35% of people with MND experience mild cognitive change, which can cause issues in executive functions such as planning, decision-making and language
> A further 15% of people with MND show signs of frontotemporal dementia which results in more pronounced behavioural change
> It kills a third within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis
> It kills six people per day in the UK, this is just under 2,200 per year.
MND 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. At any time, around 120 people are living with MND across Northern Ireland. Around 30-40 people in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed each year.