Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Theamyotrophic lateral sclerosis is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease; this is after Lou Gehrig who was a famous baseball player and struggled with the ALS disease which caused his death in 1941.

ALS is a neurological disorder that is not only progressive but it is also incurable. The spinal cord and brain nerve cells that control muscle movements deteriorate gradually. This results in muscles wasting away which results in paralysis and eventual death. This is usually in a span of approximately 2-5 years.

The ALS is quite rare with approximately 5,000 cases being diagnosed in the United States every year. Patients normally get affected by the disease after attaining 40 yrs; more men are affected than women.

Causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

The cause of the ALS disease is unknown though heredity causes about 5 – 10 % of all diagnosed cases. A fraction of the ALS cases that are hereditary is thought to be as a result of a gene that is defective; this gene makes it impossible for the body to produce normal levels of superoxide dismutase enzyme. This particular enzyme plays a role in neutralizing free radicals which damage body tissues.

Research that has been carried out speculates that the protective enzymes that are defective could be agents for the ALS disease that is non-inherited.

Environmental toxins, exposure to fertilizers, animal hides and heavy metals are also believed to be causes of ALS but it is not a proven fact. Other possible causes could be serious physical trauma, viral infection and overstimulation of the glutamate neurotransmitter.

Treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

The ALS disease is incurable hence the only treatment available slows down the rate of progression. The treatment also helps in preventing complications associated with the disease as well as ensuring that the patient is more independent and comfortable.

ALS disease involves intricate social, mental and physical issues which require medical attention from a neurologist who is better placed to help patients manage the condition in a better manner. The neurologist will advise the patient on the cause of treatment to go with, depending on the tests that are carried out. This can help in prolonging the patient’s life as ell as improving their quality of life.

 Tests carried out when diagnosing ALS disease include;

  • Balance
  • Muscle tone
  • Coordination
  • Muscle strength
  • Reflexes
  • Sense of sight and touch

 ALS has different treatment options including;

Medications; riluzole is a drug that is used to slow down the rate of progression of the ALS disease.

  • Physical therapy
  • Breathing care therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social and Psychological support
  • Nutritional support


It is important to maintain a diary where you put down any symptoms that are associated with ALS disease. These symptoms could include difficulty in swallowing, muscle movements, speech, hand coordination and walking. This can help the neurologist in coming up with the diagnosis. Always write down the circumstances under which you experience the symptoms as well as the time. Although ALS disease has no cure, getting treatment helps in prolonging life and ensuring that the patients are more comfortable.