Anterior horn cell disease

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Anterior horn cell disease is a neurological disorder that affects the nerve cells of the spinal cord. The disorder affects the voluntary skeletal muscles of the muscular system.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) classifies anterior horn cell disease as a form of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Anterior horn cells are nerve cells (also called motor neurons) located in the grey matter of the spinal cord. These cells are responsible for helping people make movements such as walking or eating. The motor neurons (nerve cells or anterior horn cells), therefore, control the voluntary "movements in the arms, legs, chest, face, throat, and tongue."


Because anterior horn cell disease (spinal muscular atrophy) affects the nerve cells that are responsible for body movements, precursors to the disease may include severe reduced muscle tone, diminished limb movements, lack of muscle reflexes, body tremors, difficulty eating and drinking, breathing problems or the inability to stand, walk, or climb steps.

Causes and Risks

The reason for this nerve disease is not known. However, the NINDS report this neurological disorder is "more common in men over 40 than in women." In addition, children are susceptible to anterior horn cell disease and the indicators are "present at birth or before they learn to walk."


There are no specific tests to diagnose anterior horn cell disease. NINDS notes that the symptoms associated with this disease are similar to other diseases. However, a neurological exam assessing motor and sensory skills, nerve functions, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and mood changes can lead doctors to a diagnosis.


There is no cure or standard form of treatment for anterior horn cell disease.