Motor Neuron Diseases Information Page

Motor Neuron Diseases Information Page


What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and funds research on the motor neuron disorders.  Researchers are testing whether different drugs, agents, or interventions are safe and effective in slowing the progression of motor neuron diseasess.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting clinical trials to study drugs to stimulate muscle growth in Kennedy’s disease and to suppress endogenous retroviruses in individuals with ALS. A large NIH-led collaborative study is investigating the genes and gene activity, proteins, and modifications of adult stem cell models from both healthy people and those with ALS,spinal muscular atrophy, and other neurodegenerative diseases to better understand the function of neurons and other support cells and identify candidate therapeutic compounds.

Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Neuromuscular Disorders

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What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and funds research on the motor neuron disorders.  Researchers are testing whether different drugs, agents, or interventions are safe and effective in slowing the progression of motor neuron diseasess.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting clinical trials to study drugs to stimulate muscle growth in Kennedy’s disease and to suppress endogenous retroviruses in individuals with ALS. A large NIH-led collaborative study is investigating the genes and gene activity, proteins, and modifications of adult stem cell models from both healthy people and those with ALS,spinal muscular atrophy, and other neurodegenerative diseases to better understand the function of neurons and other support cells and identify candidate therapeutic compounds.

Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Neuromuscular Disorders

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and funds research on the motor neuron disorders.  Researchers are testing whether different drugs, agents, or interventions are safe and effective in slowing the progression of motor neuron diseasess.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting clinical trials to study drugs to stimulate muscle growth in Kennedy’s disease and to suppress endogenous retroviruses in individuals with ALS. A large NIH-led collaborative study is investigating the genes and gene activity, proteins, and modifications of adult stem cell models from both healthy people and those with ALS,spinal muscular atrophy, and other neurodegenerative diseases to better understand the function of neurons and other support cells and identify candidate therapeutic compounds.

Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Neuromuscular Disorders

Search Disorders

Definition
Definition
Treatment
Treatment
Prognosis
Prognosis
Clinical Trials
Clinical Trials
Organizations
Organizations
Publications
Publications
Definition
Definition

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing.  Normally, messages from nerve cells in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles.  When there are disruptions in these signals, the result can be gradual muscle weakening, wasting away, and uncontrollable twitching (called fasciculations).  Eventually, the ability to control voluntary movement can be lost.  MNDs may be inherited or acquired, and they occur in all age groups.  MNDs occur more commonly in men than in women, and symptoms may appear after age 40.  In children, particularly in inherited or familial forms of the disease, symptoms can be present at birth or appear before the child learns to walk.

The causes of sporadic (noninherited) MNDs are not known, but environmental, toxic, viral, or genetic factors may be implicated.  Common MNDs include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, and progressive muscular atrophy. Other MNDs include the many inherited forms of spinal muscular atrophy and post-polio syndrome, a condition that can strike polio survivors decades after their recovery from poliomyelitis.

×
Definition

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing.  Normally, messages from nerve cells in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles.  When there are disruptions in these signals, the result can be gradual muscle weakening, wasting away, and uncontrollable twitching (called fasciculations).  Eventually, the ability to control voluntary movement can be lost.  MNDs may be inherited or acquired, and they occur in all age groups.  MNDs occur more commonly in men than in women, and symptoms may appear after age 40.  In children, particularly in inherited or familial forms of the disease, symptoms can be present at birth or appear before the child learns to walk.

The causes of sporadic (noninherited) MNDs are not known, but environmental, toxic, viral, or genetic factors may be implicated.  Common MNDs include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, and progressive muscular atrophy. Other MNDs include the many inherited forms of spinal muscular atrophy and post-polio syndrome, a condition that can strike polio survivors decades after their recovery from poliomyelitis.

Treatment
Treatment

There is no cure or standard treatment for the MNDs.  Symptomatic and supportive treatment can help patients be more comfortable while maintaining their quality of life. The drug riluzole (Rilutek®), which as of this date is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS, prolongs life by 2-3 months but does not relieve symptoms.  Other medicines that may help reduce symptoms include muscle relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine, and the benzodiazepines for spasticity; glycopyrrolate and atropine to treat excessive saliva; and anticonvulsants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.  Panic attacks can be treated with benzodiazepines.  Some patients may require stronger medicines such as morphine to cope with musculoskeletal abnormalities or pain in later stages of the disorders, and opiates are used to provide comfort care in terminal stages of the disease.

Physical and speech therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may help to improve posture, prevent joint immobility, slow muscle weakness and atrophy, and cope with swallowing difficulties.  Applying heat may relieve muscle pain.  Assistive devices such as supports or braces, orthotics, speech synthesizers, and wheelchairs help some patients retain independence.  Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to maintaining weight and strength.

×
Treatment

There is no cure or standard treatment for the MNDs.  Symptomatic and supportive treatment can help patients be more comfortable while maintaining their quality of life. The drug riluzole (Rilutek®), which as of this date is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS, prolongs life by 2-3 months but does not relieve symptoms.  Other medicines that may help reduce symptoms include muscle relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine, and the benzodiazepines for spasticity; glycopyrrolate and atropine to treat excessive saliva; and anticonvulsants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.  Panic attacks can be treated with benzodiazepines.  Some patients may require stronger medicines such as morphine to cope with musculoskeletal abnormalities or pain in later stages of the disorders, and opiates are used to provide comfort care in terminal stages of the disease.

Physical and speech therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may help to improve posture, prevent joint immobility, slow muscle weakness and atrophy, and cope with swallowing difficulties.  Applying heat may relieve muscle pain.  Assistive devices such as supports or braces, orthotics, speech synthesizers, and wheelchairs help some patients retain independence.  Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to maintaining weight and strength.

Definition
Definition

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing.  Normally, messages from nerve cells in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles.  When there are disruptions in these signals, the result can be gradual muscle weakening, wasting away, and uncontrollable twitching (called fasciculations).  Eventually, the ability to control voluntary movement can be lost.  MNDs may be inherited or acquired, and they occur in all age groups.  MNDs occur more commonly in men than in women, and symptoms may appear after age 40.  In children, particularly in inherited or familial forms of the disease, symptoms can be present at birth or appear before the child learns to walk.

The causes of sporadic (noninherited) MNDs are not known, but environmental, toxic, viral, or genetic factors may be implicated.  Common MNDs include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, and progressive muscular atrophy. Other MNDs include the many inherited forms of spinal muscular atrophy and post-polio syndrome, a condition that can strike polio survivors decades after their recovery from poliomyelitis.

Treatment
Treatment

There is no cure or standard treatment for the MNDs.  Symptomatic and supportive treatment can help patients be more comfortable while maintaining their quality of life. The drug riluzole (Rilutek®), which as of this date is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS, prolongs life by 2-3 months but does not relieve symptoms.  Other medicines that may help reduce symptoms include muscle relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine, and the benzodiazepines for spasticity; glycopyrrolate and atropine to treat excessive saliva; and anticonvulsants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.  Panic attacks can be treated with benzodiazepines.  Some patients may require stronger medicines such as morphine to cope with musculoskeletal abnormalities or pain in later stages of the disorders, and opiates are used to provide comfort care in terminal stages of the disease.

Physical and speech therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may help to improve posture, prevent joint immobility, slow muscle weakness and atrophy, and cope with swallowing difficulties.  Applying heat may relieve muscle pain.  Assistive devices such as supports or braces, orthotics, speech synthesizers, and wheelchairs help some patients retain independence.  Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to maintaining weight and strength.

Prognosis
Prognosis

Prognosis varies depending on the type of MND and the age of onset.  Some MNDs, such as primary lateral sclerosis and Kennedy disease, are not fatal and progress slowly.  Patients with spinal muscular atrophy may appear to be stable for long periods, but improvement should not be expected.  Some MNDs, such as ALS and some forms of spinal muscular atrophy, are fatal.

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Prognosis varies depending on the type of MND and the age of onset.  Some MNDs, such as primary lateral sclerosis and Kennedy disease, are not fatal and progress slowly.  Patients with spinal muscular atrophy may appear to be stable for long periods, but improvement should not be expected.  Some MNDs, such as ALS and some forms of spinal muscular atrophy, are fatal.

Prognosis
Prognosis

Prognosis varies depending on the type of MND and the age of onset.  Some MNDs, such as primary lateral sclerosis and Kennedy disease, are not fatal and progress slowly.  Patients with spinal muscular atrophy may appear to be stable for long periods, but improvement should not be expected.  Some MNDs, such as ALS and some forms of spinal muscular atrophy, are fatal.

Definition

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing.  Normally, messages from nerve cells in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles.  When there are disruptions in these signals, the result can be gradual muscle weakening, wasting away, and uncontrollable twitching (called fasciculations).  Eventually, the ability to control voluntary movement can be lost.  MNDs may be inherited or acquired, and they occur in all age groups.  MNDs occur more commonly in men than in women, and symptoms may appear after age 40.  In children, particularly in inherited or familial forms of the disease, symptoms can be present at birth or appear before the child learns to walk.

The causes of sporadic (noninherited) MNDs are not known, but environmental, toxic, viral, or genetic factors may be implicated.  Common MNDs include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, and progressive muscular atrophy. Other MNDs include the many inherited forms of spinal muscular atrophy and post-polio syndrome, a condition that can strike polio survivors decades after their recovery from poliomyelitis.

Treatment

There is no cure or standard treatment for the MNDs.  Symptomatic and supportive treatment can help patients be more comfortable while maintaining their quality of life. The drug riluzole (Rilutek®), which as of this date is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS, prolongs life by 2-3 months but does not relieve symptoms.  Other medicines that may help reduce symptoms include muscle relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine, and the benzodiazepines for spasticity; glycopyrrolate and atropine to treat excessive saliva; and anticonvulsants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.  Panic attacks can be treated with benzodiazepines.  Some patients may require stronger medicines such as morphine to cope with musculoskeletal abnormalities or pain in later stages of the disorders, and opiates are used to provide comfort care in terminal stages of the disease.

Physical and speech therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may help to improve posture, prevent joint immobility, slow muscle weakness and atrophy, and cope with swallowing difficulties.  Applying heat may relieve muscle pain.  Assistive devices such as supports or braces, orthotics, speech synthesizers, and wheelchairs help some patients retain independence.  Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to maintaining weight and strength.

Prognosis

Prognosis varies depending on the type of MND and the age of onset.  Some MNDs, such as primary lateral sclerosis and Kennedy disease, are not fatal and progress slowly.  Patients with spinal muscular atrophy may appear to be stable for long periods, but improvement should not be expected.  Some MNDs, such as ALS and some forms of spinal muscular atrophy, are fatal.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and funds research on the motor neuron disorders.  Researchers are testing whether different drugs, agents, or interventions are safe and effective in slowing the progression of motor neuron diseasess.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting clinical trials to study drugs to stimulate muscle growth in Kennedy’s disease and to suppress endogenous retroviruses in individuals with ALS. A large NIH-led collaborative study is investigating the genes and gene activity, proteins, and modifications of adult stem cell models from both healthy people and those with ALS,spinal muscular atrophy, and other neurodegenerative diseases to better understand the function of neurons and other support cells and identify candidate therapeutic compounds.

Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Neuromuscular Disorders

Patient Organizations
ALS Association
1275 K Street, N.W.
Suite 250
Washington
DC
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-407-8580
ALS Therapy Development Institute
300 Technology Square
Suite 400
Cambridge
MA
Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel: 617-441-7200
Cure SMA
925 Busse Road
Elk Grove Village
IL
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Tel: 800-886-1762
Fight SMA
1321 Duke Street
Suite 304
Alexandria
VA
Alexandria, VA 22134
Tel: 703-299-1144
Kennedy's Disease Association
P.O. Box 1105
Coarsegold
CA
Coarsegold, CA 93614-1105
Tel: 855-532-7762
Les Turner ALS Foundation
5550 W. Touhy Avenue
Suite 302
Skokie
IL
Skokie, IL 60077-3254
Tel: 888-ALS-1107; 847-679-3311
Muscular Dystrophy Association
National Office - 222 S. Riverside Plaza
Suite 1500
Chicago
IL
Chicago, IL 60606
Tel: 800-572-1717
Post-Polio Health International
4207 Lindell Blvd.
#110
St. Louis
MO
St. Louis, MO 63108-2930
Tel: 314-534-0475
Project ALS
3960 Broadway
Suite 420
New York
NY
New York, NY 10032
Tel: 212-420-7382; 800-603-0270
Spastic Paraplegia Foundation
1605 Goularte Place
Fremont
CA
Fremont, CA 94539-7241
Tel: 877-773-4483
Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation
888 Seventh Avenue
Suite 400
New York
NY
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 877-FUND-SMA (386-3762); 646-253-7100
Publications

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) information page compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Post-Polio syndrome information compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Post-Polio Syndrome fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Monomelic amyotrophy (Benign Focal Amyotrophy) information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Patient Organizations