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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - Symptoms and Treatment

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a classic motor neuron disease. ALS is marked by gradual degeneration of the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. It may begin with muscle twitching or weakness in an arm or leg, or with slurring of speech. Eventually, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects your ability to control the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support.  The disease does not affect a person's ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch, and it does not usually impair a person's thinking or other cognitive abilities.  However, several recent studies suggest that a small percentage of patients may experience problems with memory or decision-making, and there is growing evidence that some may even develop a form of dementia. The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others. The first signs and symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be so subtle that they are overlooked. The earliest symptoms include muscle twitching, cramping, stiffness, or weakness. Speech may become slurred, and later there is difficulty chewing or swallowing. Different types of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are distinguished by genetic cause, pattern of inheritance, age when symptoms begin, and disease progression. Onset of symptoms in adulthood is characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis types 1 and 8. Symptoms of type 1 usually begin between 40 and 60 years of age and progress rapidly. Most individuals with type 1 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis die of respiratory failure within 3 to 5 years of the onset of symptoms.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a terminal neurological disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. The disease takes its less-scientific name from Lou Gehrig, a baseball player with the New York Yankees in the late 1920s and 1930s, who was forced to retire in 1939 as a result of the loss of motor control caused by the disease. In 1991, a team of researchers linked familial ALS to chromosome 21. Two years later, the SOD1 gene was identified as being associated with many cases of familial ALS. The enzyme coded for by SOD1 carries out a very important function in cells: it removes dangerous superoxide radicals by converting them into non-harmful substances. Defects in the action of this enzyme mean that the superoxide radicals attack cells from the inside, causing their death. Several different mutations in this enzyme all result in ALS, making the exact molecular cause of the disease difficult to ascertain. Recent research has suggested that treatment with drugs called antioxidants may benefit ALS patients. However, since the molecular genetics of the disease are still unclear, a significant amount of research is still required to design other promising treatments for ALS.

Causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Common causes and risk factor's of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis include the following :

  • Having a family member with ALS.

Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Some common Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis :

  • Muscle cramps.
  • Paralysis.
  • Oversensitive gag reflex .
  • Difficulty swallowing, gags or chokes easily.
  • Voice changes, hoarseness.
  • Difficulty breathing (increasing effort required to breathe).
  • Atrophy of tongue.
  • Weakness and atrophy in specific muscles.

Treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Physical therapy is used to reduce pain associated with muscle cramping and spasticity.



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