Home > Health > ALS: Causes, Symptoms And Diagnosis Of The Incurable, Debilitating Disease

ALS: Causes, Symptoms And Diagnosis Of The Incurable, Debilitating Disease

ALS: Causes, Symptoms And Diagnosis Of The Incurable, Debilitating Disease

ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a disease that causes the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, as stated on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

The Mayo Clinic’s website explains that ALS impacts motor neurons, which are the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements such as walking and talking. The Mayo Clinic further explains that ALS causes both groups of motor neurons to gradually deteriorate and eventually die. This damage to the motor neurons disrupts the communication between the nerves and muscles, resulting in the inability of the muscles to function properly.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ALS is considered a common form of motor neuron diseases.

Lou Gehrig (Getty)
Lou Gehrig (Getty)

According to the website, the ailment is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig, a professional baseball player in the United States, was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 and died in 1941, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Cause of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

The cause of ALS remains unknown, according to information provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

However, the Mayo Clinic’s website states that approximately 10% of individuals with the condition have a genetic cause that can be identified. The Mayo Clinic’s website also mentions that several theories suggest a complex interaction between genes and environmental factors as possible causes of ALS.

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic highlights certain established risk factors, including age (with the condition being most common among individuals aged 60 to their mid-80s), and gender (slightly more men than women develop ALS before the age of 65, but this gender difference disappears after the age of 70).

Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic notes that other environmental factors may contribute to an increased risk of ALS. These factors include smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, and military service. The specific triggers related to military service are unclear, but they may involve exposure to certain metals or chemicals, traumatic injuries, viral infections, or intense exertion.

It’s important to note that ALS is not contagious, as stated on the Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website. Unlike the common cold or the flu, ALS cannot spread from person to person.

Symptoms of ALS

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website, individuals with ALS may initially experience weakness in one limb, which gradually develops over a few days or weeks. The website also mentions that weakness may later develop in another limb after several weeks or months.

In some cases, the initial issue could involve slurred speech or difficulty swallowing. As ALS progresses, additional symptoms may become noticeable.

These symptoms include:

  • Muscle twitching and cramping, particularly in the hands and feet,
  • A loss of motor control in the hands and arms.
  • Problems with using the arms and legs,
  • Tripping and falling,
  • Dropping objects,
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Uncontrollable bouts of laughing and crying may also occur.

In the later stages of the disease, the website states that trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, and paralysis may manifest as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some individuals with ALS may eventually receive a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, a type of dementia.

Diagnosis of ALS

As per the information provided on the Cleveland Clinic’s website, a healthcare professional will conduct a physical examination and inquire about the individual’s medical history to confirm an ALS diagnosis. Additional tests that may be performed include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Neurological examination
  • Electromyogram (EMG) to assess the electrical activity of nerves and muscles
  • Nerve conduction study to evaluate the signal transmission capability of nerves
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brain or spine for potential damage
  • Other tests, such as spinal fluid analysis and muscle and/or nerve biopsy, may also be conducted to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Is it possible to treat ALS?

According to the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine websites, there is no cure for ALS.

According to information provided on the Cleveland Clinic’s website, there are various treatments available to slow down the progression.

These treatments may include the following:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Speech therapy
  • Assistive devices and specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs and electric beds

Additionally, some individuals with ALS choose to engage in “voice banking,” which involves recording their voice in a speech synthesizer. This allows them to communicate through the synthesizer if they lose their ability to speak later on.

On the Mayo Clinic’s website, it is mentioned that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for the treatment of ALS.

These medications are:

  • Riluzole
  • Edaravone
  • Sodium Phenylbutyrate
  • taurursodiol, also known as Relyvrio

It is important to note that while these treatments can help manage the condition, they cannot reverse the damage caused by ALS.

The prognosis for individuals with ALS varies, as stated on the Cleveland Clinic’s website. On average, most ALS patients survive for approximately three to five years following their diagnosis. However, there are cases where some individuals can live for ten years or longer. A section of the website states that the outlook for an ALS patient depends on the rate at which their symptoms advance.

Also read: From Lab to Life-Saver: CSIR-NIIST’s Simple Blood Test for Cancer and Alzheimer’s

You may also like
Sober Curiosity and Dating: How to Navigate the Early Stages
Sober Curiosity and Dating: How to Navigate the Early Stages
Unlocking the Secrets of Love Languages: Strengthen Your Connection
Unlocking the Secrets of Love Languages: Strengthen Your Connection
The Ultimate Guide to Flying with an Infant
The Ultimate Guide to Flying with an Infant
The Silent Influence of Grandmothers: Unveiling How They Shape Our Lives Unknowingly
The Silent Influence of Grandmothers: Unveiling How They Shape Our Lives Unknowingly

Discover more from NoseyPepper

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading