Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
If not handled on time, ALS affects the nerves that control breathing and can be fatal.
There is no appropriate cure for the disease, but the treatments can mitigate the health condition symptoms.
What is ALS?
With the disease progression, it starts affecting all the voluntary muscles, and the person with ALS cannot even control their face, arms, and legs. Further, it can lead to respiratory failure due to the inability to breathe.
A few essential facts on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
ALS affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, causing muscle weakness, paralysis, breathing issues, motor function loss, and eventually death.
The exact cause of the disease is still not known, but some genetics and environmental factors can be said to be the contributory ones.
As there is no cure for the disease, the treatment includes relieving symptoms, providing emotional and social support, and slowing down its progression.
Causes of ALS
Possible causes of ALS
- Disorganized immune response
The immune system attacks some of the body cells of a person that possibly kills the nerve cells.
- Proteins mishandling
If the proteins are not processed appropriately by the nerve cells, the abnormal proteins can potentially accumulate and lead to the nerve cells dying.
- Chemical imbalance
Patients with ALS are at higher risk of having higher glutamate levels, a chemical messenger present in the brain.
- Environmental factors
Environmental factors also play a contributory role in the health condition. Several possible links for this include:
- Electrical or mechanical trauma.
- Higher levels of exercise.
- Military service.
- Higher levels of a variety of heavy metals.
- Higher agricultural levels.
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Essential to note!
There is no conclusive evidence stating specific lifestyle changes can decrease the risk.
Symptoms of ALS
The common symptoms of ALS include:
- Increased clumsiness
- Difficulty in carrying out daily activities
- Twitching and cramping in arms, tongue, or shoulder
- Cognitive changes
- Weakness in hands, legs, ankles, and feet
- Difficulty in maintaining a good posture
- Speech slurring and difficulty with voice projection
- Uncontrolled laughing or crying outbursts
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Issues with saliva and mucus
Types of ALS
- Sporadic ALS
Sporadic ALS generally occurs randomly. There is no clear cause or risk factor for this type, but it accounts for 90 to 95 percent of cases.
- Familial ALS
Familial ALS refers to the one that is inherited. The child of a person with the ALS health condition has around 50 percent chance to develop the condition, and around 5 to 10 percent of cases lie under this category.
Treatment and prevention of ALS
Since there is no cure for the health condition, the treatment aims to alleviate the symptoms only and prevent unnecessary complications and slow down the disease progression rate.
However, therapies may include:
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can help patients with ALS manage pains and address mobility issues.
- Occupational therapy
Occupational therapy can help a patient with ALS maintain their independence for a longer time by training patients to compensate for arm and hand weakness and facilitating people select adaptive equipment and assistive technologies for keeping up daily activities.
- Speech Therapy
Speech therapy is essential when ALS begins to make it even harder for the person to talk. It can introduce the patient to adaptive techniques.
- Breathing Therapy
Breathing therapy is essentially required as the respiratory muscles get weaker.
- Nutrition support
Nutrition is essential as the difficulty with swallowing can make it complicated to get enough nutrients.
- Diagnosis of ALS
No single test can confirm the health condition but based on the symptoms experienced; the doctors can recommend a few tests.
The tests that may help diagnose the health condition includes
- Nerve conduction study
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