Information for the public


In most people with MND the muscles used for breathing (called the respiratory muscles) are affected at some stage. This can cause breathlessness and other symptoms such as tiredness, disturbed sleep and poor concentration. You may find that you cannot cough properly to clear your throat.

Your multidisciplinary team will ask if you are having any problems with coughing or breathing, and you may need to have some tests to find out how well your lungs and respiratory system are working.

Your team may also talk about referring you to a specialist respiratory service or clinic if you need it.


If you are finding that you cannot cough well enough to clear your throat, you should be given information about treatments that can help.

Symptoms of breathing problems

If you notice any of the following symptoms, these might mean that you are starting to develop breathing problems, so you should get information and advice about what can help:

  • Breathlessness, especially when lying flat.

  • Breathing more quickly or more shallowly.

  • Not being able to clear your throat properly when you cough, or you can only cough weakly.

  • Frequent chest infections.

  • Waking up several times in the night, maybe with nightmares.

  • Feeling tired, sleepy and physically exhausted in the daytime.

  • Confusion and problems with remembering and concentrating.

  • Having hallucinations.

  • Having headaches in the mornings.

  • Having a poor appetite.

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