Stephen Hawking Dies Of Motor Neuron Disease; What Is Motor Neuron Disease?

Professor Stephen Hawking dies at the age of 76 | Boldsky

Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology with the University of Cambridge. He died on Wednesday at the age of 76 due to his long-continuing ailment - motor neurone disease.

At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with an impaired neurodegenerative disease. Then, he went on to become one of the world's most prominent scientists. He was best known for his work on black holes.

Indians are being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which falls under motor neuron disease, a rare condition that affects those in the 60s.

what is motor neuron disease

What Is Motor Neuron Disease?

Motor neuron diseases are a group of conditions that cause the brain and nerves in the spine to slowly stop functioning. This is a rare disease but is incurable.

Motor neurons are nerve cells that transmit electrical output signals to the muscles that affects the muscle's ability to function properly. This disease can appear at any age, but mostly people are diagnosed over 40 years or older. It is said to affect men more than women.

The most common type of motor neuron disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here are some facts about the motor neurone disease:

  • Motor neuron disease (MND) leads to progressive weakening of the muscles in the body, which eventually weakens your ability to breathe.
  • Genetic, environment and viral issues may play a role in causing the motor neurone disease.
  • There is no cure for this disease, but there are treatments available.
  • After diagnosis, the life expectancy ranges from 3 years to longer than 10 years.
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Types Of Motor Neuron Disease

There are several types of motor neurone diseases like Lou Gehrig's disease, progressive bulbar palsy (PBP), progressive muscular atrophy (PMA), primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), etc.

1. Lou Gehrig's Disease

It is the most common type of disease that affects the muscles of the arms, legs, mouth and respiratory system. The survival span of this disease is 3 to 5 years. With diagnosis, the lifespan may extend.

2. Progressive Bulbar Palsy

This disease involves the brain stem. This condition causes difficulty in speaking, eating, swallowing and frequent choking spells.

3. Progressive Muscular Atrophy

This disease is slow but causes muscle wasting, especially in the arms, legs and mouth.

4. Primary Lateral Sclerosis

This disease is a rare form of motor neuron disease. It is not dangerous, but it can affect the quality of life.

5. Spinal Muscular Atrophy

This disease is an inherited motor neuron disease that affects children mostly. It affects the legs, arms and trunks.

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Causes Of Motor Neuron Disease

Motor neurons send signals from the brain to the muscles and bones, which tend to make the muscles move. This involves conscious movements and automatic movements such as breathing and swallowing.

Though the exact cause is unclear, the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke has stated that genetic, viral, and other environmental factors play a role.

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Symptoms Of Motor Neuron Disease

The early signs and symptoms of motor neuron disease depends upon which body system is affected first. The symptoms include:

  • Weakened muscles, which makes it hard to hold and pick up things
  • Muscle cramps and muscle pains
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Slurred speech
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Motor Neuron Disease - Diagnosis

There is no single diagnostic test for MND and it's based on clinical history and examination, which is accompanied by electro-physiological tests. Other tests like blood tests, lumbar puncture, muscle biopsy, etc., are also done.

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