Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
What is ALS?Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a form of motor neuron disease that leads to the gradual degeneration of voluntary muscle movement. In the early stages of ALS, many of those affected have to deal with weakening of the muscles, difficulties with speaking and swallowing, and in many cases severe pain as a result. In the later stages, most patients cannot walk, talk, swallow or breathe unassisted. The figures for ALS - which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease - are quite shocking. Most people who are diagnosed with the disease only survive for 2 to 3 years, although there are a small percentage of people who defy the odds. On top of this, around 90% of the cases of ALS are sporadic, meaning that they seemingly occur without reason, and aren’t a result of genetics (which accounts for 5-10%). Stephen Hawking, until his death in 2018, suffered from ALS, and is one example of those who have outlived the noted 2 to 3 year period that the disease usually brings. However, specialists say that this is an extremely rare occurrence, and that the likelihood of living for such a long period of time with ALS is less very less. For most people, receiving the diagnosis is, somewhat, a death sentence.
What Treatments are Available?Unfortunately, has no known cure. However, there are ways that the symptoms can be lessened and dealt with, and it can help patients to prolong their life expectancies, if only for a few months. The most common methods of treatment are:
- Medication: Riluzole and Edaravone are the approved drugs in the USA for the treatment of ALS. The former is used as it reduces damage to motor neurons, and it may prolong the patient’s life for a few months, but it is also worth noting that it cannot reverse any existing damage that ALS has caused. Edaravone has links to improving the day-to-day functioning of somebody who suffers with the disease.
- Assistance with speech and physical therapy: of course, the main symptoms of ALS are difficulty with speaking, and the physical deterioration of the body (more specifically, the muscles). Medical assistance can be given here, from computerized aids for speaking, to stretches to help the muscles. This is one of the most integral forms of therapy to improve the patient’s comfort throughout their lives.
- Support with breathing: due to the fact that most people suffer with breathing problems when they have ALS, one of the main forms of support for patients concerns respiration. In the early days of the disease, a mask that helps one to breathe may be used, but in the long-term, there are other options, such as mechanical ventilation.
What Does the Future of ALS Look Like?According to a leading neurologist specializing in the treatment of patients diagnosed with ALS, “We have the potential to transform ALS from a 100 percent fatal disease to a manageable, chronic disease like diabetes. This is an unprecedented time in the ALS research and treatment community.” In fact, one emerging therapy, stem cell therapy for ALS, which complements transplantation of fetal stem cells with a highly-regimented routine of physical and respiratory exercise, has shown much promise. This new approach, considered safe and effective, is directed at slowing down the progression of ALS symptons over a period of 6 to 18 months. Preliminary results for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis stem cell treatment have shown that this modality produces a positive influence of sustaining functional independence of the ALS patients involved in the study, as well prolongation of average life expectancy.
ALS Patient ReviewsALS Patient: Giorgio - Below you will find a list of improvements Better speech Movement of tongue More control of my legs, hands and neck Eating Drinking Less Saliva Less drooling Not biting my tongue when sneeze Ease of taking pills Less cramps Less muscle spasm Read More
ALS Patient: Anait - Anait's daughter wrote: My mother, Anait, is 57 years old and she was diagnosed with ALS in 2001. Within a year of diagnosis, she had overall muscle weakness and her speech was affected. She also had poor balance and was dragging her feet while walking. Her symptoms were progressing rapidly. Read More