Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (pronounced as: ah-my-uh-tro-fik lah-tuh-rul skluh-ro-sis ), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive disorder which affects the voluntary movements of the body. It belongs to a group of motor neuron disorder which gradually weakens the muscles, thereby resulting in the slow degradation and death of motor neurons. Hence, it affects the brain's ability to control the functioning of voluntary muscles, which doctors look at as early ALS symptoms. The vital communication link between brain and voluntary muscles of the body is governed by motor neurons and any malfunctioning of the neurons may lead to poor muscle coordination in the affected part of the body. With nearly 5,000 Americans diagnosed with this disease every year and some 20,000 patients of ALS in US, this is one of the most common neuromusculardisorders all over the world.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are no definite methods to diagnose this condition. The goal of the medical treatment is to relieve the complications, delay paralysis, and maintain muscle movement. Even though no cure has been found for it, organizations like Food and drug Administration (FDA) have tried to come up with medications to treat the symptoms. Riluzole (Rilutek) is an ALS medication, that has been recommended by the FDA to control the symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Researchers at FDA believe that taking Rilutek prevents the damage of the neurons. Some clinical trials also suggest that Rilutek has the ability to prolong survival by months. However, it has to be understood that the medicine doesn't promise complete treatment, and it has some side effects too. Hence, you must refrain from taking any specific medication, unless advised by your health care professional. Also, providing excellent health care support to the affected person is very important. The medical experts like pharmacists, physician, occupational and speech therapists, nurses, and nutritionists must provide supportive care to the affected individual. Friends, family members, and medical experts can also plan out physical and medical therapy for the affected individual. For the treatment of some problems such as muscle cramps, fatigue, and excess phlegm, the physician can sometimes advise certain medications. Patients dealing with problems of depression, sleep disturbances, and constipation are also given proper medications.
Physical therapy and simple aerobic exercises may also prove helpful in strengthening of muscles in some affected individuals. Simple exercises such as stationary cycling and walking can improve the cardiovascular health of these individuals. The affected person's mobility can also be improved by varying the range of motion and exercises. Physical and occupational therapists can guide the patients to work on their body, so that the stiff muscles can gain flexibility. Also, speech therapists can help the patients improve their speaking ability, by teaching them special techniques to speak loudly and clearly. As the treatment advances, there arises the need to follow techniques to improve the communication ability of the patient. The patient needs to learn techniques to improve nonverbal communication.
Scientists are studying the progression of this disease, so that they can get a better insight in its spread and come up with effective treatment. One of the most popular survivors of ALS disease is Stephen Hawking, the pioneering astrophysicist who has survived this disease for over 40 years.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.