What is ALS?
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. According to the ALS Association, it is a degenerative neurological disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This means that as the neurons in the brain atrophy and die, they can no longer send signals to the spinal cord that controls muscles throughout our bodies. Over time, this affects a person’s voluntary movements and can ultimately hinder the ability to speak, eat, breathe and move.
ALS is more likely to affect men than women, and most people are between 40-70 years old when they develop ALS. Early symptoms vary from person to person; they can start with gradual weakness in the hands and arms, or with vocalization or swallowing. Some of the more common symptoms include:
– difficulty grasping or lifting (pencil, cup etc)
– difficulty swallowing
– change in pitch of voice, slurred speech
– dropping things
– abnormal fatigue
– muscle cramps
– twitching of the muscles
– uncontrollable bouts of laughing or crying
Though the sequence people may experience symptoms vary, progressive muscle weakness and paralysis are universally experienced. People with ALS experience increased difficulty with motor skills, but other senses dealing with sight, hearing, smell, taste remain unaffected.
There is no definitive test for ALS; a diagnosis is made based on a detailed history of symptoms and by ruling out other possible diseases. When there is both upper and lower muscle weakness, there is a strong indication it could be ALS. Your doctor will monitor your symptoms and conduct regular neurological examinations to track the progression of muscle weakness.
Currently there is no known cure for ALS, but there are several medications that are widely used to slow the progression and ease some of the symptoms of ALS. Other treatments include physical therapy, speech therapy, nutrition, and breathing support. As the disease progresses, and muscle weakness intensifies, most people need help with many of life’s daily tasks. Supportive family and friends will make all the difference in the life of someone with ALS. If you or someone you know needs help at home, please call us at (941) 882-2203 to see how we can help!!