Some diseases don’t get the attention that they deserve. For a long time, ALS was one of those disease. There have been a variety of ways to get people’s attention when it comes to ALS.
A few years back, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” brought a lot of attention to ALS in that people realize it exists. However many people never really learned anything about ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It’s also commonly called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” due to Lou being one of the earliest people to suffer from it. This disease causes the brain to slowly lose the ability to communicate with the muscles in a person’s body. Because of that, the muscles break down and people become paralyzed. Eventually, the muscles make it impossible to even eat, swallow or breathe. Being diagnosed with ALS is an incredibly scary experience and something that no one wishes to ever have to undergo.
What Causes ALS
One of the biggest reason so much research needs to be funded with ALS is that quite simply, the causes of ALS are undetermined at this point. Doctors are unable to say with any certainty what causes ALS and in many cases are completely unable to correlate it to anything else.
However, there is one situation where the cause of ALS can be determined. In some cases, ALS can be inherited from a parent who has/had ALS. People who have a family history of ALS should be wary of the symptoms and signs. People who think the signs or symptoms listed below should quickly speak with a healthcare professional.
Signs and Symptoms of ALS
Everyone should be very careful to look for the symptoms and signs of ALS. Symptoms will often start in a person’s limbs and extremities. So issues with the hands or feet to start is the most common. From there, it will spread to other muscles. The symptoms to be aware of include:
- Walking Problems - ALS can make it very difficult for people to walk. This obviously then affects their day to day abilities and life.
- Falls - This doesn’t necessarily have to be from tripping while walking. It can come from any sudden weakness in a muscle that comes unexpectedly.
- Clumsiness - Loss of motor functions in the hand can come on quite quickly. Dropping things or doing hand movements incorrectly is a common early sign.
- Speech Issues - Muscle issues can cause speech to become slurred. Not necessarily constantly at first, but there will be moments.
- Inability to Swallow - People with ALS will struggle to swallow their food as the muscles in their neck and throat weaken.
- Posture Problems - People with ALS will find that having good posture becomes difficult. The muscles will often lack the ability to properly support the bones as people wish to sit, stand or lay down.
Treatment for ALS
Unfortunately,.ALS currently doesn’t have a cure. Damage that has already occurred is irreversible. The goal for treatment instead becomes twofold. The first goal is to reduce the onset of symptoms and slow them down. The second goal is to prevent any of the dangerous complications that can occur from showing up and making people more comfortable.
The start of treatment is typically a medication. There are a couple of medications which are used to help treat ALS. It can slow the progression of it in some people. Other medications can be used to help with a lot of the symptoms.
From there, the next step is therapies. The various therapy options may work to assist people in dealing with the complications of ALS. Physical therapists can assist in helping people who are struggling with walking and movement. It can help maximize a person’s movement while they still have it. There is also breathing therapy. This may require ventilation or other devices to assist with breathing during certain times. It’s most common at night. Other therapies like occupational therapy to assist with doing job tasks or speech therapy as people slur their speech can be beneficial as well. Most people with ALS may also have the support of dieticians to assist them in crafting diets easy to swallow, but maintaining nutrition.