What is ALS?Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Also know as LouGehrigs’ disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease thataffects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and fromthe spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALSeventually lead to their death.When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiateand control muscle movement is lost.With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients inthe later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
Nerve cell difference between a normal celland a damaged cell from ALS
Symptoms of ALSEarly symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especiallyinvolving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When musclesno longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require tofunction, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look"thinner" as muscle tissue atrophies.The nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons thatprovide voluntary movements and muscle power. Example: Making theeffort to reach for the phone or step off a curb; these actions are controlled bythe muscles in the arms and legs.Twitching (fasciculation) and cramping of muscles, especially those in thehands and feet
Symptoms continued.."thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice in more advanced stages,shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and swallowingThe rate at which ALS progresses can be quite variable from one person toanother. Although the mean survival time with ALS is three to five years,many people live five, ten or more years. In a small number of people, ALS isknown to remit or halt its progression, though there is no scientificunderstanding as to how and why this happens.Not all people with ALS experience the same symptoms or the samesequences or patterns of progression.Muscle weakness is a hallmark initial sign in ALS, occurring in approximately60% of patients. Early symptoms vary with each individual, but usuallyinclude tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs,slurred speech, muscle cramps and twitches and/or uncontrollable periods oflaughing or crying.The hands and feet may be affected first, causing difficulty in lifting, walkingor using the hands for the activities of daily living such as dressing, washingand buttoning clothes.
Most Prone to being DiagnosedMost people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with anaverage age of 55 at the time of diagnosis.Cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties.Generally, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older.ALS is 20% more common in men than in women. Though, with increasingage, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.Serving in the military can have a 60% increase in possibility of getting ALS.
Diagnosing ALSALS is a very difficult disease to diagnose. There is no one test or procedure toultimately establish the diagnosis of ALS.It is through a clinical examination and series of diagnostic tests, often ruling outother diseases that mimic ALS, that a diagnosis can be established. Acomprehensive diagnostic workup includes most, if not all, of the following:electro diagnostic tests including electromyography (EMG) and nerveconduction velocity (NCV)blood and urine studies including high resolution serum protein electrophoresis,thyroid and parathyroid hormone levels and 24-hour urine collection for heavymetalsspinal tapx-rays, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)myelogram of cervical spinemuscle and/or nerve biopsythorough neurological examination
Possible TreatmentAlthough the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the recent yearshave brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding thephysiology of this disease.There is no cure or treatment today that halts or reverses ALS, However,Riluzole was the first treatment to alter the course of ALS.It was approved by the FDA in late 1995. This antiglutamate drug was shownscientifically to prolong the life of persons with ALS by at least a few months.There are significant devices and therapies that can manage the symptoms ofALS that help people maintain as much independence as possible and prolongsurvival.ALS is a variable disease; no two people will have the same journey orexperiences.There are medically documented cases of people in whom ALS ‘burns out,’stops progressing or progresses at a very slow rate.
Help Find a Treatment..Donate http://www.alsa.org/donate/gifts-in-tribute.html http://www.alscenter.org/donate/ http://neurology.ucsf.edu/brain/als/donate/richa rd%20olney.html
Resources. "About ALS." ALS Association. N.p., 2010. Web. 15 May2012. <http://www.alsa.org/about-als/>.N.d. Photograph. MDA ALS Division, Tucson. Web. 15 May2012.<http://www.alsmda.org/publications/als/als15_1.html>.