Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive and neurodegenerative condition that affects the nerves that control voluntary muscle movement. This condition makes people weak, making their bodies become paralyzed. Because of the inability to move freely, ALS patients are prone to various health complications such as dental issues, breathing problems, etc. In this article, you will learn more about Lou Gehrig’s disease, including some treatments that may help improve ALS life expectancy.
What is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also referred to as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This affects motor neurons that run from the brain through the spinal cord to muscles that control movement.
Generally, ALS is sorted in one of two ways. The first one is the upper motor neuron disease that influences nerve cells in the brain. On the other hand, lower motor neuron disease affects nerve cells coming from the spinal cord or central nervous system. In any case, both conditions destroy motor neurons and are fatal.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients may encounter a different portion of upper and lower motor neurons that pass away. This causes symptoms that differ from one individual to another. The disease progresses, affecting more nerves over the long haul.
Signs and Symptoms
Usually, ALS symptoms begin by affecting the body’s movement. However, the initial side effects of ALS can vary from one individual to another, as can the rate at which ALS progresses.
Not all people with ALS develop the same symptoms or similar arrangements or sequences of progression. Nevertheless, all individuals with ALS will encounter progressive muscle weakness and paralysis.
As a matter of fact, there are different stages of ALS. In its early phase, the initial symptoms might be so minor that they are neglected. Common manifestations of ALS include:
- Impairment in the use of arms and legs
- Weakness in the muscles that control speech, swallowing, or breathing
- Weakness in muscles of the arms, hands, or legs
- Cramping and twitching of muscles, particularly those in the hands and feet
- Difficulty speaking or slow or slurred speech
Trained healthcare professionals can help manage ALS symptoms. You can go to Omnicare Medical in Southbank to seek medical intervention. In more advanced cases, the disease causes difficulty swallowing, breathing, or shortness of breath, causing respiratory failure, the most reason for an ALS patient’s death.
ALS disease can be familial or sporadic. Familial ALS means one of your family members has the disease. At the same time, Sporadic ALS implies no known history of other family members with the disease. However, the specific causes or risk factors of these motor neuron diseases are not totally identified. Still, continuous research is investigating the possible role of genetics and environmental factors.
A 2009 research suggests that smoking tobacco may increase the risk of a person for ALS disease. In any case, here are the following factors that might be responsible for ALS:
- Gene defects
- Viral infections
- Defective glutamate metabolism
- Cytoskeletal protein defects
- Autoimmune and inflammatory mechanisms
- Free radical injury
- Programmed cell death or apoptosis
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Accumulation of protein aggregates
In some rare conditions, people can live for a long time with ALS.
The average life expectancy for a person with ALS is somewhere between 3 and 5 years. More than half of people who develop the disease die within three years, and just around 10% live over ten years.
5% will live for 20 years or longer. One best example is the late Professor Stephen Hawking, diagnosed in his early 20s and lived for more than 55 years with ALS.
ALS is a progressive condition. However, the rate of advancing and how it affects the body will differ from person to person. Also, how quickly the disease progresses after initial diagnosis varies considerably from one individual to another. There might be months when there could be no further capacity loss except that the illness can frequently unexpectedly advance quickly.
Treatments To Improve Quality of Life
Though there is no way to stop the disease completely, a few treatments may improve life expectancy and quality of life. These include:
The common medications used to treat ALS are edaravone and riluzole. These medicines are not a cure, but they can help ALS patients live longer, particularly when taking one of them soon after the diagnosis.
Noninvasive ventilation (NIV) is a foundation of ALS treatment. This treatment provides positive-pressure ventilation, which patients can breathe through a mask that suits the mouth and nose.
Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy (PEG)
This feeding tube helps ALS patients get the nutrients they need despite having trouble eating. A PEG tube bypasses the mouth and throat, reducing the risk of choking and inhaling food and medications into the lungs. Also, this tube can be used for liquid feedings, medicines, and water.
Since ALS cannot clean their mouth on their own, seeing a dentist can help them achieve a beautiful smile free from pain and other oral issues. A dental care routine is still essential for ALS patients to help reduce health complications that create pain and discomfort.
Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help a person with ALS to improve their life. These therapies can help preserve strength and flexibility, increase independence, and help to speak more loudly and more clearly.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet.
Understanding Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG).