Motor Neurone Disease

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a rare neurological condition that affects the brain and nerves and causes weakness that continues to worsen over time. MND can significantly reduce life expectancy and ultimately leads to death, however, treatments may help to improve quality of life and extend a patient’s lifespan, somewhat.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease are usually slow to develop and may not be obvious at first. This may mean that a diagnosis is made relatively late, however, there are some early signs which may be symptoms of MND.

These can include:

  • Weakness in your ankle or leg – you might trip, or find it harder to climb stairs
  • Slurred speech, which may develop into difficulty swallowing some foods
  • Weak grip/ loss of dexterity in fingers – you might drop things, or find it hard to open jars or do up buttons
  • Muscle cramps and twitches
  • Weight loss– your arms or leg muscles may have become thinner over time
  • Difficulty stopping yourself from crying or laughing in inappropriate situations

Cause and treatment

MND is caused by a problem with cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurones. The condition develops when these cells gradually stop working over time, though it is not understood why this happens.

Having a close relative with motor neurone disease, or a related condition called frontotemporal dementia, can sometimes mean you're more likely to get it; however, in most cases, MND does not run in the family.

There is currently no known cure for MND, however, treatments can help to prolong life and reduce the impact on everyday life. Following a diagnosis of MND, you will receive care from GPs and specialist physicians who will determine the right treatment options for you. These can include:

  • Admission to highly specialised clinics: usually involving a specialist nurse and occupational therapy to help make everyday tasks easier
  • Physiotherapy and exercises to maintain strength and reduce stiffness
  • Advice from a speech and language therapist
  • Advice from a dietitian about diet and eating
  • Riluzole - a medicine that can slightly slowdown the progression of the condition
  • Medicines to relieve muscle stiffness and help with saliva problems
  • Emotional support for you and your carer
  • End of life care

Medical Cannabis and Motor Neurone Disease

If traditional treatment options such as those listed above fail to provide relief, medical cannabis can be considered to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life in patients with Motor Neurone Disease. There is evidence to support the potential of medical cannabis in improving symptoms associated with MND which can lead to an improvement in quality of life.

In a study from 2014, researchers found that cannabinoid-based medicines were able to improve spasticity and quality-of-life measures; specifically, “nabiximols had a positive effect on spasticity symptoms in patients with Motor Neurone Disease”.

Our specialist physcians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.