Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a specific disease which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. It impacts physical function like difficulty speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.

The underlying mechanism of this disease involves damage to both upper and lower motor neurons.

No cure for ALS is known, at present.This disease can affect people of any age, but usually starts around the age of 60 and in inherited cases around the age of 50. Average life expectancy is two to four years and about 10% survive longer than 10 years. Fewer than 100 thousand cases are reported per year in India.

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How does ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) affect your body?

Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS,is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When a muscle has no nourishment, it atrophies. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons eventually leads to their demise and the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected in ALS patients, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.

What are the causes of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

Lou Gehrig’s disease is inherited in 5 to 10 percent of cases, while the rest have no known cause.

Possible causes of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease include:

Gene mutation– Various genetic mutations can lead to inherited ALS, which causes nearly the same symptoms as the non-inherited ones.

Chemical imbalance– People with ALS generally have higher than normal levels of glutamate which is known to be toxic to some nerve cells.

Disorganized immune response– In auto-immune disease condition, immune system begins attacking some of his or her body’s own normal cells, which may lead to the death of nerve cells.

Protein mishandling– Mishandled proteins within the nerve cells may lead to accumulation of abnormal forms of these proteins in the cells, destroying the nerve cells.

Read more: Median Nerve Compression Causes | Atherosclerosis Causes

What are the risk factors of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

  • Heredity– About five to 10 percent of the people with ALS have inherited this disease form their parents.
  • Age-With age, the risk of ALS increases and is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Sex– Slightly more men than women develop ALS before the age of 65.
  • Genetics-It was found that there are many similarities in the genetic variations of people with familial ALS and some people with non-inherited ALS and these genetic variations might make people more susceptible to ALS.
  • Environmental factors– Smoking, toxic exposure and people who have served in the military are at higher risk of ALS.
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What are the symptoms of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

The disorder causes following symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Atrophy
  • Muscle spasms due to the degeneration of the upper motor and lower motor neurons.
  • Lost ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement.
  • Repeating gestures or phrases, apathy and loss of inhibition are frequently reported behavioral features.
  • Language dysfunction, executive dysfunction, and troubles with social cognition and verbal memory are the commonly reported cognitive symptoms in ALS.
  • Experiencing emotional lability like crying or laughing for no reason.

How is ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) diagnosed?

Tests are done to rule out other neurological disorders because ALS mimic other neurological symptoms during early stage:

  • Electromyogram (EMG) – During this test, a needle electrode is inserted through the skin into various muscles. The test evaluates the electrical activity of the muscles when they contract and when they’re at rest.Abnormalities in muscles seen in an EMG can help diagnose ALS, or determine if you have a different muscle or nerve condition that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Nerve conduction study– This measures the nerves’ ability to send impulses to muscles in different areas of the body and can determine if you have nerve damage or certain muscle diseases.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Using radio waves and a powerful magnetic field, an MRI produces detailed images of the brain and spinal cord. An MRI can spot spinal cord tumors, herniated disks in the neck or other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Blood and urine tests– Analyzing samples of blood and urine in the laboratory may help eliminate other possible causes of symptoms.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) – Sometimes a small needle between two vertebrae is inserted in your lower back anda small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is removed for testing in the laboratory.
  • Muscle biopsy– If your doctor believes you may have a muscle disease rather than ALS, a muscle biopsy may be done where a piece of muscle is removed and sent to a lab for analysis.
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How to prevent & control ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

  • According to a study, increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Eat leafy green vegetables and omega 3-fatty acids.
  • If you happen to carry a gene, get it tested before symptoms start to develop.

Treatment of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) – Allopathic Treatment

Medications used to reduce the symptoms include:

  • Riluzole (Rilutek)– This medicine appears to slow the disease’s progression in some people by reducing levels of a chemical messenger in the brain (glutamate) that is often present in higher levels in people with ALS.
  • Edaravone (Radicava) – This drug showed that it reduced the decline in daily functioning associated with ALS.

Therapies include-

  • Breathing care– With difficulty breathing in later stages as your muscles become weaker, your doctormay provide you with devices to assist your breathing at night.
  • Physical therapy– A physical therapist can address pain, walking, mobility that help you stay independent while practicing low-impact exercises may help maintain your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and range of motion for as long as possible.
  • Speech therapy– ALS affects the muscles used to speak and communication is an issue in advanced ALS. A speech therapist can teach you adaptive techniques to make your speech more clearly understood and also help you explore other methods of communication, such as an alphabet board or simple pen and paper.

Treatment of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)- Homeopathic Treatment

At present, there’s no cure for ALS.

Riluzole– This drug functions by blocking the effects of the neurotransmitter glutamate, and is thought to extend the lifespan of an ALS patient but has many intolerable side effects in some patients.

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ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) – Lifestyle Tips

  • Involve in a therapy class which can help you cope with emotional issues, can teach how to keep muscles strong or speak clear and various other activities.
  • Follow a healthy nutritional diet. Consult a dietician to help you choose the right diet.

What are recommended exercise for person with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?

ALS patients should not push themselves when they get tired while exercising. Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week can be beneficial:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Stretching
  • Range of motion (ROM) exercises

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) & pregnancy- Things to know

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is rare during pregnancy.
  • Neonatal outcomes following pregnancies complicated by ALSare good.
  • It was studied that there does not appear to be any indication forclose monitoring of the offspring of mothers with ALS,regardless of whether the onset of the disease is prior to orduring pregnancy.

Common complications related to ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

  • Breathing problems– ALS paralyzes the muscles used to breathe in later stages.
  • Speaking problems– People with ALS will develop trouble speaking over time and starts as occasional, mild slurring of words, but progresses to become more severe.
  • Eating problems– People with ALS develop malnutrition and dehydration from damage to the muscles that control swallowing.
  • Dementia– Some patients with ALS experience problems with memory and making decisions, and some are diagnosed with a form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia.

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