Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis abbreviated as ALS – is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the brain and the spinal cord. ALS is also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.
Symptoms of ALS
ALS usually first affects the hands and legs and gradually spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms of ALS may include the following.
- Footdrop – a condition that causes difficulty in lifting the front portion of the foot and toes.
- Weakness in the hands, legs and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty in swallowing and talking
- Difficulty in breathing and chewing
Early diagnosis of ALS may be difficult as the symptoms of this disease often mimic those of other neurologic disorders. Select diagnostic procedures may be performed to rule out other medical conditions which may involve one or more of the following.
Electromyogram (EMG) is a specialized method that makes use of an instrument to measure the electrical signals produced in the muscles
MRI provides detailed images of the spinal cord and the brain. However, in many instances, MRI results may be normal in individuals with ALS.
Blood and Urine Tests are performed to exclude the possibility of other diseases associated with similar symptoms.
Nerve Conduction Study may be performed to determine the strength and speed of nerve signals. During this diagnostic test, small shock is passed through the nerve to measure the nerve signals.
If all the above diagnostic procedures point towards ALS, then your physician may perform one last test – a Muscle Biopsy to rule out a disease related to the muscles (myopathy).
Other Accompanying Conditions?
Since ALS is a progressive disease, the following secondary conditions may gradually set in.
- Breathing difficulty
- Difficulty in eating food
Treatment for ALS
Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms and improving the quality of life. Medications and therapy are the two types of treatment modes available.
The Rilutek® Drug
To date, Rilutek is the only drug that has been approved by the FDA to arrest symptoms of ALS. This drug is known to decrease the level of glutamate. The level of glutamate is generally found to be higher in individuals with ALS.
Rehabilitation Therapies, such as, physical, occupational and speech therapy may be employed to allow individuals with ALS walk and talk more comfortably for those who qualify.
Outcome of ALS
There is no complete cure for ALS. At best, the symptoms may only be controlled to a certain extent with medication, while therapies may make moving around a bit more comfortable. This may be a debilitating and progressive disease that leads to fatality over time.
It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition.