If a patient experiences symptoms like muscle spasms or trouble walking, some may suspect it to be Multiple Sclerosis, while others may say it’s Motor Neuron Disease. While MS and MND do have some commonalities, they are completely different conditions that require unique treatment approaches. Here, we offer a brief guide on the difference between Multiple Sclerosis and MND.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis and Motor Neuron Disease
Motor neuron diseases are a group of neurodegenerative disorders that selectively affect motor neurons – cells which control all the voluntary muscles of the body. These muscles are responsible for performing movements under one’s will and thus, motor neuron diseases affect one’s ability to perform voluntary movements.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune demyelinating disease, which means the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues — in this case, the myelin or protective covering around nerve fibers. This leaves scarred tissues or lesions in multiple areas, disrupting electrical impulses throughout the body. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve impulses slow down or even stop, causing neurological problems.
Similarities between Multiple Sclerosis and Motor Neuron Disease
When it comes to MS vs MND, both diseases manifest in a somewhat similar fashion, which is why several people confuse them. Here’s what they have in common:
- Both are chronic, degenerative conditions
- Both affect the central nervous system and cause hardening or scarring around nerve cells
- Both affect muscles and limbs, causing problems with voluntary movement
- Early symptoms for both include fatigue, muscle spasms, and trouble walking
- The diagnosis for both requires similar tests such as an MRI, a spinal tap, and tests of neurological function
- Both have no cure, but can be managed through a tailored treatment plan
Differences between Multiple Sclerosis and Motor Neuron Disease
While the points of distinction between MS and MND are numerous, here we only discuss the most salient ones.
- The key difference between Multiple Sclerosis and MND is that Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, while MND is a neurodegenerative condition
- In Multiple Sclerosis, the disease affects the myelin sheaths in the central nervous system, disrupting the way signals are sent to other parts of the body. However, in MND, the actual nerve cells are affected, which is what causes movement problems
- MS mostly affects patients between the ages of 20 and 40, while MND mostly affects those between the ages of 40 and 70
- In general, Multiple Sclerosis is a more common condition than MND
- MS occurs most commonly in Caucasians, while all ethnicities are equally likely to get MND
- In addition to movement-related symptoms, Multiple Sclerosis affects bladder control and cognitive ability, as well as the senses of sight, touch, and smell. Motor Neuron Disease, however, causes only movement disorders
- The symptoms of MS tend to come and go in patterns of relapse and recovery. With MND, the symptoms tend to progressively worsen
- Patients with Multiple Sclerosis tend to live an almost normal lifespan. Those with MND usually survive five to 10 years after diagnosis, although some go on to live much longer
- Late-stage Multiple Sclerosis is rarely fatal in itself, although death can occur from related complications. Late-stage MND, on the other hand, is highly debilitating and ultimately fatal
Receiving a diagnosis of either Multiple Sclerosis or MND can be a challenging moment for the patient and their family. It is important to thoroughly understand what each condition entails so that the patient can secure the best treatment available. If you or a loved one display the early symptoms of either, make sure to get a check-up and diagnosis promptly.