Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease of the nervous system. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It has no known cause.

SYMPTOMS

ALS shows up (presents) with the loss of nerve cells.

  • It tends to strike the movement (motor) nerves. These are the nerves that control your muscles.

  • The nerves used for feeling (sensation) are usually not affected.

  • With this disease there is continuing (progressive) loss of muscle control and weakness of most muscles. This is most noticeable in the arms and legs.

  • Later in the disease there is weakness of the facial muscles. Also, there are problems with swallowing and breathing. The voice may also become affected because of problems with weakness.

The thinking ability, movements of the eyes, feeling sensations and circular muscles (sphincters) that help control bowels and urination all continue to work.

DIAGNOSIS

The diagnosis of ALS is usually made by observing the physical findings (clinical presentation). X-ray and lab studies may be done to support treatment of possible complications.

ALS is a disease with no known cause. At this time, there is no known treatment or cure for the disease. It is progressive. So, the muscle weakness will get worse with time. The disease usually ends with respiratory failure since the body is no longer able to breathe. The muscles which keep you breathing are no longer strong enough to do their job. The muscles which control the rib cage become too weak to provide adequate breathing (respiration).

FOR MORE INFORMATION

ALS Association: www.alsa.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders