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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - More Popularly Known In The US as Lou Gehrig's Disease

Updated on August 4, 2017

What is Lou Gehrig's Diseases or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

ALS is a motor neuron disease, so called because it affects the cells that control the movements of the voluntary muscles that include walking, swallowing, speaking, and other body movements.

This is the reason why people who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis experience body weakness due to muscle atrophy or reduction in muscle mass, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and dysarthria (difficulty speaking).


Signs and symptoms

Early signs

The first signs you will notice that a person is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease are muscles that are losing mass and volume, and body weakness.

The part of the body that manifests early signs of the disease will depend on the part of the brain that has been severely damaged.

  • 75% of those suffering from ALS has the disease first affecting the arms or legs called the limb onset ALS.
  • 25% of patients has the disease first affecting swallowing and speaking called bulbar onset ALS.
  • a small percentage of patients have the muscles used for breathing affected first, called respiratory onset
  • and a smaller percentage is affected first by dementia of the frontal lobes.

To be accurately diagnosed with ALS, a patient should first show signs of damage of the upper and lower neurons that cannot be identified with any other causes.

Disease progression

As the disease progresses, the patient loses the ability to walk and to use his arms and hands. He also becomes unable to walk, talk and breathe properly and usually ends up having to use a BiPAP, a ventilator to help him breathe.

Late stages

People suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease die of respiratory failure and occurs within three to five years from the time the disease is diagnosed.

Cause

There is no known cause of Lou Gehrig's disease. The currently known 95% of cases occurred randomly.

© 2014 Zee Mercado

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