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What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis BY RUDOLF R MIJACEVIC

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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. ALS commonly strikes people between 40-70-years-old and it also affects both younger and older. However, men are affected more than women.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in USA since 1939. Lou Gehrig was a baseball legend and he died from this disease just two years after he was diagnosed. ALS is one of those diseases that progresses quickly after the onset of symptoms. With ALS – nerve cells located in the brain degenerate over time. As these neurons break down and die, they stop transmitting message to muscles. Over time it affects most voluntary muscles in the body. In later stages, the muscles used for breathing are affected as well. Assistance with breathing, such as using a ventilator, usually becomes necessary. However, ALS does not a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch.

The causes of ASL are not completely understood and scientists do not know why ALS strikes some people and not others. Years ago, researchers believed that a single cause might explain all cases of ALS, but today we know that cannot be the case. Scientists and doctors believe that genetic plays a big role in developing of this scary disease. One parent carrying the gene can be responsible for the disease. This is known as Familial ALS. Moreover, most experts believe that several existing clues are linked to the cause of ALS, but four of them are known as the major ones.

1) Free radicals
2) Glutamate
3) Autoimmune system
4) Neurofilaments.

What is the diagnosis of ALS? Well, being diagnosed with ALS is not as simple as taking a blood test or getting an X-ray. No test can prove with certainty that someone has ALS. Before a diagnosis can be made, a health care provider must observe certain symptoms and signs such as muscle weakness, muscle atrophy (wasting away of muscle mass), hyperreflexia (overactive reflexes), and spasticity (the tightening and contraction of muscles. In some cases tests are run to rule out other possible diseases that have similar symptoms. Patients may be given three tests as Electromyography (EMG), Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis affects everyone and it touches in different ways. No two people will experience the stages of ALS at the same rate. The progress from one stage to the next is unique for each individual. ALS stages can be divided into three categories.

1)     Early stage, in which the patient experiences the following:

A)   Weak and soft, cramping and twitching, and atrophy characterized muscles.

B)    Fatigue, poor balance and tripping when walking characterize the physical effects in early stage of the disease.

2)     Middle stage,

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A)   Some muscles become more widespread while others are paralyzed.

B)    Physical effects: require help to stand and have difficulty eating.

3)     Late stage definitely is the worst and most difficult stage of ALS.

A)   Muscles symptoms in this stage are: most muscles are paralyzed and ability to breathe is compromised.

B)    In addition, the physical effects may show that speech is no longer possible by an individual, nor drinking by mouth is possible at all.


Although there is no cure for ALS, treatments and therapies exist that can help manage symptoms of the disease. It is very important to learn more about those treatment options available today, and they are:

1)     Medications, which help to reduce fatigue, control stiff or rigid muscles, pain reliever and depression, and sleep disturbances.

2)     Therapies such as speech therapy, respiratory therapy and occupational therapy.

3)     Specialized treatment centers that offer physical therapy, psychology or psychiatry; speech and language pathology.


To sum up, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It was first described in 1869 by French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot, but it was not until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease when he retired from playing baseball after being diagnosed with ALS. Most commonly, this disease strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.




“NINDS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Information Page.”

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Information Page: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.

Parker, James N., Philip M. Parker, and Inc Icon group International. The Official Patient’s Sourcebook On Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. San Diego, Calif: Icon             Health Publications, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 28 Apr.2014.






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