What is ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)?
ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease that affects the spinal cord and the brain. It is a degenerative chronic disorder that leads to loss of control over the voluntary muscles. It is also named as Lou Gerrigs disease after the famous footballer Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this condition. A person suffering from this condition loses control over the limb movements, speech and even swallowing. There are two types of ALS:
- Sporadic: It is the most common form of this disease
- Familial: It is an inherited condition which means it runs in the family.
The initial signs of this degenerative disease are fatigue in the limb, clumsiness, slurred speech, and cramps. As the condition progresses, the symptoms spread to other parts, it includes:
- Increase in clumsiness
- Weakness in legs, hands, and feet
- Difficulty completing daily activities like walking
- Difficulty in maintaining proper gait and keeping the head up
- Emotional outbursts of crying or laughing, mood changes
- Changes in cognitive abilities with problems in memory and decision making.
- Pain and fatigue increases
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
As ALS progresses, the weakness becomes more visible even if the symptoms are not that noticeable. Moreover, the signs are seen only on one side but as the disease progresses the symptoms spread to both sides of the body. That means there is weight loss due to muscle wasting. Who is at Risk?The potential ALS risk factors include:
- The risk of this disease increases as you age and symptoms are seen between the age of 55 and 75 years.
- Men are slightly more at risk of this condition than women.
- This degenerative disease is heredity. Familial ALS runs in the family. There is a 50:50 chance of a child developing the disease if it is present in one or both the parents.
- Gene mutations make people more susceptible to non-inherited ALS.
- Non-Hispanics and Caucasians are a risk of developing ALS.
- People who are exposed to mechanical or electrical trauma.
- People who are exposed to heavy metals and chemicals.
ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Causes
The sporadic or familial are two types of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There is no clear cause for Sporadic ALS while familial ALS is inherited. Other causes of ALS are:
- When the immune systems start to attack their own body cells killing the nerve cells.
- In some people, the nerve cells are not processed properly and hence it accumulates and causes the nerve cells to die.
- Due to the chemical imbalance of glutamate which is a messenger to the brain. People with ALS have high levels of this chemical and hence it becomes toxic to the nerve cells.
- Environmental factors like exposure to mechanical or electrical trauma, heavy metals, chemicals, and exercise.
How is ALS Diagnosed?
Multiple tests need to be done for diagnosing ALS. It includes:
- A neurologist does a full body examination for signs of weakness, muscle twitches, slurred speech, etc along with investigating the family health history, medical history, and symptoms.
- Blood and urine tests are done to rule out other diseases
- A lumbar puncture or spinal tap is done to determine spinal problems.
- MRI is done to rule out a spinal cord tumour or a herniated disk that has similar symptoms of ALS.
- Electrophysiological tests are performed to check the damage to the nerves.
- A nerve conduction study is done to check if the nerves are functioning properly.
- Muscle biopsy to determine if it is some other muscle disease.
How is ALS Treated?
There is no ALS cure, so any treatment provided is to reduce the effect of symptoms, prevent complications, and slow down the disease progression. The treatment options are:
- Medications that slow the progression of the disease by reducing the levels of glutamate.
- Physical therapy is used to manage pain and also to improve mobility.
- Occupational therapy is done to ensure there is less dependence on others.
- Breathing devices, adaptive devices, etc is recommended to ease life.
- Speech therapy is conducted for people who find it hard to communicate.
- Nutritional advice is provided as swallowing becomes difficult.
ALS treatment needs a team of specialists who can help in managing the symptoms. Consult our team of experts at Cure.fit to get the best possible holistic cure for ALS.
How can ALS be Prevented?
The exact cause for this disease is not known, hence prevention of the same cannot be done. But there are certain research conducted which shows that:
- Consuming food that is rich in carotene and lutein reduces the chances of ALS.
- Include food that is rich in antioxidants
- Avoid food rich in fat and glutamate
- Ensure that the Vitamin D levels are maintained properly
- Maintain an active lifestyle which includes enough physical exercise
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