Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is it?

It is the most common type of brain disorder, defined as incurable, progressive motor neuron disease. The most famous person with this disease is the scientist Professor Stephen Hawking. Motor neuron disease shortens a person’s life expectancy with time around 3 to 4 years after the first symptoms they develop.

Causes of ELA

This disease occurs when the body’s motor neurons lose their function, although doctors do not yet know why. Genetics seems to play a role in about 5% of familial motor neuron disease cases. However, where there is no close family history of this disease, it is called sporadic motor neuron disease. In general, the cause of this disease can be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

What are the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

In the early stages, the symptoms include:

  • A growing weakness in a limb, especially in hand.
  • Difficulty in walking.
  • Clumsiness with the hands.
  • Incapacity in speech.
  • Difficulty swallowing

As ALS progresses, symptoms may include:

  • A weakening of other body parts, perhaps accompanied by spasms, muscle cramps, and exaggerated reflexes faster.
  • Problems with chewing, swallowing, and breathing can make the person drool.
  • Nerve contractions of light under the skin.
  • Eventual paralysis.
  • So if you present some of the symptoms mentioned above, seek professional medical attention.

How is ALS diagnosed?

The diagnosis is not simple and may take a while. A series of tests includes an electromyogram (nerve damage test), MRI, and computed tomography to help rule out other causes of symptoms, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord tumors, and other diseases.

What are the treatments for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

Riluzole: is a medication for the treatment of ALS. How does it work? It is not known precisely, but it seems to prevent damage that can result from the nerve cell. Studies show that it can improve the functioning and survival of the patient, but due to the potential side effects that affect the liver, a medical follow-up is advised.

Physiotherapy can improve circulation and help prolong muscle use in the early stages of ALS. In addition, several medications can be prescribed when the disease is progressing, helping to reduce symptoms such as analgesics.

Botulinum toxin and baclofen can be used to help relieve muscle stiffness. Muscle shrinkage and weight loss can be stopped by nutritional supplements called branched-chain amino acids. Phenytoin and carbamazepine help relieve cramps. Some medications can help control the excess production of saliva. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to help with the depression that often accompanies such serious illnesses.