ALS Causes, Signs, and Management

ALS is an acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is a disease that affects the nervous system, and it is characterized by the death of nerve cells. Because it is a neurological disorder, ALS is also referred to as motor neurone disease; this term is more commonly used in the United Kingdom. It is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is named after the MLB Baseball Hall of Famer who was diagnosed with the condition in 1939.

Descriptions of ALS date back to the early 19th century. However, it wasn’t until 1874 that the condition acquired its name, once the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot made the long elusive connection between the symptoms and the neurological problems associated with it. Because of this discovery, the term “Charcot disease” was also used to describe ALS. It became well known when Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with the disease, and later, the scientist Steven Hawking, who has a slow-progressing version of ALS. Public awareness of ALS was boosted in 2014 with videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

There is no known cause of ALS. In a few cases (about 5 to 10 percent of them), the occurrence is linked to family genetics. Other possible causes include head trauma (such as those that are experienced in contact sports like American football), frequent drug use, and even military service. However, none of the aforementioned scenarios have ever been substantiated as conclusive causes of ALS.

Early signs of include muscle twitching and weakness in an arm or leg. In some cases, these signs might be accompanied by slurring of speech. With time, the victim is slowly and painlessly robbed of the ability to control the muscles needed to speak, move, eat, and breathe. ALS continues to destroy the central nervous system until shuts down the lungs; the mind, however, is fully aware of everything until the very end.

There is no cure for ALS. So, physicians manage ALS to relieve symptoms and extend life expectancy. For instance, medications like Riluzole (Rilutek) is provided to lengthen survival by a few months. For breathing, in particular, people suffering with ALS rely on ventilatory assistance equipment or methods to help with breathing muscles when they eventually weaken due to the debilitating effect of this disease.