- What Is It?
- Risk Factors
- Related Resources
What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a progressive, fatal type of motor neuron disease. ALS affects motor neurons, which control voluntary muscles. These muscles help with functions, such as chewing, talking, and moving arms and legs.
Most people with ALS die because of a lack of oxygen supply to the lungs, which causes respiratory failure. ALS can occur at any age, but it is most common in people aged 40 to 70 years.
Symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) symptoms begin with weakness in one limb, followed by weakness in the other limb several weeks to months later. The initial problem is not always a weakness in the limbs. Sometimes, the initial problem is slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.
As the condition progresses, the symptoms’ severity increases.
The most common symptoms include:
- Involving hands and legs
- Loss of muscle control
- Muscle cramping and twitching
- Difficulty moving
- Uncontrolled episodes of crying and laughing
- Difficulty projecting voice
As the disease progresses, the symptoms could be severe and include:
What are the types of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?
- Sporadic: A common form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Affects approximately 90 to 95 percent of people with ALS. These cases have no known cause and no ALS family history.
- Familial: Also called genetic ALS. About 5 to 10 percent of people with ALS are affected by this type.
- Guamanian: The most common type seen in Guam and territories of the Pacific.
What causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?
Researchers do not know the exact cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS could be caused by genetic or environmental factors or a combination of both.
Genetic factors include mutation or gene changes that lead to motor neuron breakdown.
Environmental factors include being exposed to certain chemicals or experiencing physical trauma that causes motor neuron damage, resulting in ALS.
What are the risk factors for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?
The following are the risk factors for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS):
- Heredity: About 5 to 10 percent of people with ALS have a family history of the disease, and their children have a 50 percent chance of getting it.
- Age: Commonly affects people in their 40s to 70s.
- Gender: Men are at higher risk than women before 65 years. Everyone older than 65 years is at risk.
- Smoking is one of the environmental risk factors for ALS and is mostly seen in women after menopause.
- Some studies report that exposure to toxins in the workplace or at home may increase the risk of ALS, but no single chemical substance is consistently linked with ALS.
- A few studies have reported that people working in military services are at a high risk of the condition. This might be due to traumatic injuries and harmful substances, metals, or chemicals.
How is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosed?
There is no single test to diagnose amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and your healthcare provider will do a physical examination and ask for symptoms to rule out other conditions.
They may order a few tests, such as:
How is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis treated?
The main treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) includes the management of symptoms that include physical, occupational, respiratory, and nutritional therapies.
There is no cure for the disease. The FDA has currently approved six drugs to treat ALS and its symptoms, which include:
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354022
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16729-amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als
Top What Are the Symptoms of ALS Related Articles
MS (Multiple Sclerosis) vs. ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) are both diseases of the nervous system (neurodegenerative). ALS is a disease in which the nerve cells in the body are attacked by the immune system, although it's not considered an autoimmune disease by some scientists. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the insulated covering of the nerves (myelin sheath) in the CNS (central nervous system) degenerate, or deteriorate.
Scientists don't know the exact cause of either problem. However, they have discovered that mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme were associated with some cases of familial ALS. Scientists also theorize that multiple sclerosis may be caused by infection or vitamin D deficiency. ALS occurs between 50-70 years of age (the average age of occurrence ALS is 55), and mostly affects men. While MS occurs between 20-60 years of age, and mostly affects women. About 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and an average of 5,000 new diagnoses per year (that's about 15 new cases per week). Worldwide, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, with about 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year (that's about 200 new diagnoses per week).
Some of the signs and symptoms of both diseases include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, problems walking, fatigue, slurred speech, and problems swallowing. ALS signs and symptoms that are different from MS include problems holding the head upright, clumsiness, muscle cramps and twitches, problems holding objects, and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. MS signs and symptoms that are different from ALS include vision problems, vertigo and balance problems, sexual problems, memory problems, depression, mood swings, and digestive problems.
There is no cure for either disease, however the prognosis and life expectancy are different. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal condition, while ALS progresses rapidly and leads to death.
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