Motor neurone disease

By Annette Campbell Motor neurone disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases in which the motor neurones (nerve cells which control the movement of voluntary muscles, including the muscles of the trunk, limbs, speech, swallowing and breathing) die. Every day, at least one Australian is diagnosed with this debilitating condition, and another will die. MND recently claimed the life of legendary Australian artist Pro Hart.
So during this year's national Motor Neurone Disease Week (April 2-8), organisers hope to raise awareness of the condition, and promote care for today and hope for a future without it. "MND can strike anyone at any time," says National President of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of Australia (MNDAA), Helen Sjardin-Howard. "It insidiously robs people of their independence, communication and their ability to influence their surroundings, in fact most of the life choices we take for granted. There is no cure, but MND Associations offer hope through care and support services for people living with MND and their families and by promoting research to find causes, treatments and a cure for this wretched disease." So what are the symptoms? With no nerves to activate them, the muscles (mentioned above) gradually weaken and waste, and paralysis occurs. Weakness is often seen first in the hands or feet, or the first sign may be difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. In the majority of cases the senses, intellect and memory are not affected. Who's at risk? • 10 percent of cases are hereditary
• 90 percent are 'a bolt out of the blue'. Although there are rare forms of childhood MND, it usually only affects adults. People in their 20s and 90s can be affected but MND most commonly strikes people in their 60s. Shocking statistics 90 percent of people with MND die within five years of diagnosis. While some live longer, others may die within a few months. In Australia approximately 1300 people are living with MND. How you can help During MND Awareness Week, and especially on Blue Cornflower Day (Friday April 7) blue cornflowers — a symbol of hope — can be purchased from a variety of outlets across Australia, with all proceeds going to help the MND Association continue its essential work with the community. For more information, visit www.mndaust.asn.au or phone: 1800 777 175. Related Stories
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