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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Publish Date: 09 November 2021; Author: Darren M. Jorgenson.
Medical Condition: AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive and neurological disease that leads to the dysfunction in the nerves that controls muscle movement. This controlling of muscle movements leads to muscle weakness and modifications in how the body functions.

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?

ALS is a motor neuron disease that attacks the nerve cells that are generally utilized in the voluntary muscle actions. Motor neurons are located in the spinal cord and brain, and as the ALS disease progresses, these cells degenerate and die. This means that they will stop sending the messages, and even then, the brain cannot control voluntary movements.

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

The causes of ALS are still unclear. However, there are different types of the disease, and as per the symptoms and signs, the treatment is suggested.

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:
  1. Electrical or mechanical trauma.
  2. Higher levels of exercise.
  3. Military service.
  4. Higher levels of a variety of heavy metals.
  5. 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
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Issues with saliva and mucus
  • Pain

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

  1. Nerve conduction study
  2. Electromyography

Bottom Line!

The researchers are learning more about ALS every day. And as there is no cure for the disease and only symptoms can be relieved, it is essential to check out some natural remedies that can help you deal with the health condition devoid of any side effects.

Marijuana is one such natural treatment that can help you deal with it but requires legal permissions in the form of a medical marijuana card. Don’t forget to see a doctor before counting on it.

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