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Fact Sheet of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurological disorder that causes weakening of the muscles and impacts the physical activity. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a type of motor neuron disorder that causes breakdown of nerve cells. In a majority of cases, doctors are unable to find the real cause of the diseases. This disorder begins with twitching in the arm or legs which eventually affect a person’s ability to control the muscles.

Causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can affect a person regardless of his age, gender, race, geographical location or ethnicity. Offspring’s of a person suffering from this condition have 50% more chances of acquiring this disorder as compared to a person born to a mother without this disorder. Researchers have been investigating to find the real cause of this neurological disorder; however, some of the most commonly believed causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis include:

  • Chemical imbalance

People suffering from ALS have been found with higher levels of glutamate, also known as the chemical messenger in the brain. High level of Glutamate is known to be toxic to the nerve cells.

  • Disorganized immune response

In rare cases, the immune system of the body attacks nerve cells, further leading to this condition.

  • Protein mishandling

If nerve cells do not process the proteins correctly, there are high chances that they will die due to abnormal protein accumulation.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Signs and Symptoms
Different individuals develop different symptoms at early stages of ALS. While the symptoms can range from mild to severe, there are high chances that a person may overlook the most obvious symptoms.
Some of the common sign and symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in walking or carrying regular activities
  • Twitching or cramping in hands, ankles, feet or legs
  • Cognitive changes
  • Difficulty in voice projection
  • Mucus and saliva problems
  • Difficulty in holding up head
  • Fatigue or clumsiness

ALS does not affect the bowel movement or a person’s thinking ability. While suffering from this disorder, it is possible to stay actively involved with your friends and family.

Risk Factors
Some of the established risk factors of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis include:

  • Age

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis more often affects people in the age group of 40 to 60 years.

  • Heredity

5% to 10% of the people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have inherited it. Children whose parents are suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have 50% more chances of acquiring this disorder.

There are a number of environmental factors that can increase the risk of an individual acquiring ALS. Some of them include:

  • Lead Exposure

Evidence suggests that individual exposed to lead have greater chances of acquiring this neurological disorder.

  • Smoking

Smoking cigarettes apparently increase the risk of acquiring ALS. The more you smoke, the greater the risk becomes.

Diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
There is no single test that can determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The health professional often makes the diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms and few tests. If you suspect ALS, you may be advised to uptake:

  • Nerve conduction study
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Blood and urine test
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Genetic tests
  • Spinal tap

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Treatment
For the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, it is important that you visit an experienced doctor. The treatment focuses on preventing unnecessary complications, treating the symptoms and making you comfortable. The team of doctors will choose the right treatment for you.

  • Medications

The only approved drug for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is Rilutek. It slowdowns the progression of the disease by reducing the level of glutamate in the brain thus help the patient to cope up with the problem.

  • Therapy

The therapist will also suggest you to indulge in physical therapy or breathing care to make it easier for you to get around.
Coping up with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is easy if you are determined to get over the disease. Always be hopeful and think beyond your neurological challenges to live a rewarding life.