ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Neurology

ALS refers to a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and is named after the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with the disease.

It primarily affects the motor neurons responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. As the disease progresses, these motor neurons degenerate and die, leading to muscle weakness, loss of coordination and eventual paralysis. It can affect various aspects of a person’s physical functions, including speech, swallowing and breathing.

The exact cause is still not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Most cases are sporadic. This means they occur without a known family history. However, about 5-10% of cases are inherited and are caused by specific gene mutations.

There is currently no cure and the disease has a variable rate of progression. Treatment is primarily focused on managing symptoms, providing supportive care and improving the patient’s quality of life. A multidisciplinary approach is used to address different aspects and provide comprehensive care to patients.

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FAQ

What is ALS disease?

It is a degenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It causes the gradual deterioration of motor neurons, resulting in muscle weakness, stiffness and eventually paralysis.

How ALS is diagnosed?

It is diagnosed through a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and tests such as electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction study (NCS), imaging tests, blood and urine tests, and in some cases, a lumbar puncture. The process aims to rule out other possible causes of symptoms and identify characteristic signs.

Can ALS be cured?

Currently, there is no known cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. While there are treatments available to manage symptoms, slow down disease progression, and improve quality of life

Can ALS be prevented?

There is currently no known way to prevent the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The exact cause is still not fully understood and is considered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although we cannot prevent it from occurring, there are steps that individuals can take to maintain their overall health and well-being, such as eating a healthy diet and avoiding environmental toxins.

Can ALS symptoms come and go?

No, symptoms do not typically come and go. They tend to progressively worsen over time.

Who is most at risk for getting ALS?

The risk factors include age (typically between 40 and 70 years), gender (slightly more common in males), family history of the disease, certain genetic mutations, and potential environmental exposures.

Why is ALS more common in males?

The reason why amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is more common in men than in women is not fully understood. However, several factors may contribute to this gender difference, such as hormonal differences, genetic factors, lifestyle and environmental factors.

Can ALS be hereditary?

Yes, a small percentage of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are inherited. This type is known as familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS). About 5% to 10% of cases are familial, the majority are sporadic (not inherited).

How do you know if ALS is hereditary?

To determine if it is hereditary, a strong family history of the disease, earlier age of onset, and the presence of a known ALS-related gene mutation are indications. Genetic testing can provide more definitive information.

Can ALS cause seizures?

Seizures are not a common symptom of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It primarily affects the motor neurons responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. This leads to muscle weakness, stiffness, and eventually paralysis.

 

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