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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? 
In the United States, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, often called Lou Gehrig disease, is associated with the name of a famous baseball player who fought against this disease and his death in 1941 made the disease a national concern.ALS is an incurable progressive neurological degenerative disorder. For reasons that are not yet understood, the brain and spinal cord cells that control voluntary muscle movement gradually deteriorate. As a result, the muscles become useless, causing paralysis and death, which usually within 2-5 years. The only affected neural cells are low motor neurons, which control things like your limb movements, swallow, and even some aspect of breathing. But the senses and thought processes remain normal. Pain is rare in this disease. The disease is relatively rare: About 5,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. The disease almost always strikes after age 40, and affects more men than women.
What Causes ALS?
Although the cause of ALS is unknown, but heredity factors play a role in 5% to 10% of cases. A small proportion of all familial ALS cases (ie, ALS derivatives) are believed to be caused by a damaged gene that prevents the body from producing an enzyme called superoxide dismutase in normal amounts. This enzyme helps neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen molecules, which are produced during metabolism and are capable of damaging body tissues. The researchers speculate that defects in protective enzymes may also include non-derived ALS and environmental toxins can also be a factor. Some evidence suggests that the disease may be triggered by exposure to heavy metals, animal skin, or fertilizer, although this has not been proven. Severe viral and physical trauma infections are also estimated as possible contributors. Another theory connects ALS with a phenomenon called excitotoxicity, in which the nerve cells that control motion are too stimulated by a neurotransmitter called glutamate to the point where the nerve cell eventually dies.
What are the symptoms of ALS? 
In the early stages, symptoms of ALS, also called Lou Gehrig disease, include:
  • Increased weakness in one limb, especially at hand
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Hands are awkward.
  • Fasciculation, ie a mild twitch under the skin
  • Speech disorder
  • Difficulty swallowing
As ALS develops, the symptoms may include:
  • The weakening of the other limbs may be accompanied by twitching, muscle cramps, and excessive and rapid reflexes.
  • Problems with chewing, swallowing, and breathing. Ngiler might happen.
  • In the end paralysis
Contact Your Doctor About ALS If:You have one of the above symptoms. ALS requires professional medical care.
How to Diagnose ALS?
To diagnose ALS, the neurologist will perform an electromyogram (EMG), which is used to detect nerve damage. Other additional tests may exclude muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord tumors, or other diseases.
What is Treatment for ALS?
Although there is no treatment that slows or stops the development of ALS, there is a wide range of medicines and devices to help control symptoms and make your life with the disease easier. Conventional treatment for ALSRilutek (riluzole) is an approved drug for the treatment of ALS. The way it works is not known with certainty, but it seems to prevent the damage that may result from nerve cells that are too stimulated by glutamate. Studies have shown this drug may improve the function and survival of ALS sufferers. However, due to the potential side effects involving the liver, it requires close monitoring by your doctor. Physical therapy can improve circulation and help extend muscle use in the early stages of ALS. In addition, a variety of drugs may be prescribed as ALS develops to help combat symptoms. Baclofen relieves stiffness in the limbs and throat. Muscle and weight loss can be slowed by a nutritional supplement called branched-chain amino acid (BCAA). Phenytoin can relieve cramps. Tricyclic antidepressants can help control the production of excess saliva, which is one of the symptoms of ALS. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to help depression, a condition that often accompanies severe illness.

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