The best way to determine whether or not you have MND is to consult a GP, who may then refer you to a specialist for diagnosis. If you experience symptoms of MND, it is important to obtain a qualified medical opinion before classifying all strange physical sensations as signs of MND.
While involuntary muscle twitches, for example, can be symptoms of MND, they are also innocuous sensations experienced by up to 70% of people – much more than the .002% of people who suffer from MND. Muscle twitches must occur in combination with other symptoms, such as muscle weakness, to be considered a sign of MND. On their own, muscle twitches can be symptoms of stress, general poor health, fatigue, or nothing at all.
Similarly, muscle weakness or stiffness may not be indicators of MND. A weakened grip, weakness in the hands or general stiffness can result from joint problems, a pinched nerve, or general aging. Muscular weakness or wasting in the legs can be the result of conditions other than MND, as can difficulty balancing or walking.
Tingling and numbness can be associated with neurological conditions, but are not symptoms of MND at all.
Consult your GP
If you experience any strange muscular sensations, consulting a medical professional is a good idea whether or not you actually do have MND. Detecting MND as soon as possible is essential to preparing for and learning to cope with the condition. In its early stages, MND may not be diagnosed accurately; as symptoms become more pronounced, however, a diagnosis will become clear.
If you do exhibit possible symptoms of MND, you will be referred to a neurological specialist, who will then perform one or more tests in order to arrive at a diagnosis. These tests, designed to measure the state, speed and activity of your nervous system, can include nerve conduction studies, electromyography (EMG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and other tests such as MRI brain scans to rule out or detect other causes.
A nerve conduction study tests whether your nervous system is operating at normal speed by applying a harmless electrical impulse to the skin. In an EMG test, small needles are applied to certain areas of the body to test whether normal nerve impulses are occurring. TMS uses magnetic stimulation to check for abnormal nerve activity between the brain and spinal cord.
Although the rate at which MND progresses varies from person to person, the muscles affected by MND will not recover. Survival times vary from 3 years to 10 or more years after diagnosis. About 70% of those with MND survive for 3-5 years, about 20% survive for 5 years, and about 10% survive for 10 years or more.