Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
(Source: NINDS / NIH) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons.
Syptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Eventually, all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and patients lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, patients lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support.
The onset of ALS may be so subtle that the symptoms are frequently overlooked. The earliest symptoms may include twitching, cramping, or stiffness of muscles; muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg; slurred and nasal speech; or difficulty chewing or swallowing. These general complaints then develop into more obvious weakness or atrophy that may cause a physician to suspect ALS.
Diagnosing amyotrohic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
No one test can provide a definitive diagnosis of aymyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although the presence of upper and lower motor neuron signs in a single limb is strongly suggestive. Because of the prognosis carried by this diagnosis and the variety of diseases or disorders that can resemble ALS in the early stages of the disease, patients may wish to obtain a second neurological opinion.
Source: NINDS / NIH
Key Point 1
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive neurological disease (it just keeps getting worse). Since there is no definitive test for ALS and the symptims can mimic many other medical conditions, the diagnosis of ALS can be difficult. Getting a second opinion on the diagnosis of a serious disease like ALS can be critical.
Key Point 2
While there is not yet a cure for ALS, there are resources and technologies that can allow people with ALS to live their lives more fully. Symptom management is a major ongoing component of the care of ALS and addressing symptoms as they change can minimize their effects on a person’s function, health, and quality of life