What is ALS? Symptoms and Treatment

Photo by Francisco Venâncio via Unsplash

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. Moreover, it is a rare condition, affecting approximately 2 in every 100,000 people worldwide.


The cause of ALS is not fully understood. However, medical professionals believe it to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic: About 10-20% of ALS cases are inherited. This is a result of a genetic mutation in one of several genes, such as SOD1, TARDBP, and FUS. These mutations cause a toxic buildup of proteins in nerve cells, leading to their death.

Environmental: Exposure to toxins such as lead, pesticides, and heavy metals seem to cause an increased risk of developing ALS. Some studies have also suggested a link between smoking and ALS, although the evidence is not conclusive.


Diagnosis of ALS is a combination of symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination. A doctor will typically conduct a thorough neurological examination. Typically, this includes tests of muscle strength, reflexes, and coordination. They may also order additional tests, such as an electromyography (EMG) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to rule out other conditions.


Symptoms of ALS can vary widely, but typically begin with muscle weakness and atrophy in one limb or on one side of the body. Other common symptoms include:

  1. Difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing.
  2. Slurred speech.
  3. Twitching and cramping of muscles.
  4. Loss of dexterity and fine motor skills.
  5. Fatigue and muscle weakness.

As the disease progresses, symptoms will worsen and may eventually lead to total paralysis.


Currently, there is no cure for ALS. Treatment primarily focuseson managing symptoms and prolonging survival.

  1. Medications: Riluzole is the only FDA-approved drug that slows the progression of ALS. Other medications, such as baclofen and diazepam, may help manage muscle spasms and cramps.
  2. Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to maintain muscle strength and flexibility, as well as improve mobility and independence.
  3. Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help patients adapt to the physical limitations caused by the disease. This includes using assistive devices or modifying their home or work environment.
  4. Speech therapy: Speech therapy can help patients who are experiencing difficulty speaking or swallowing.
  5. Respiratory therapy: Respiratory therapy can help patients who are experiencing difficulty breathing.
  6. Nutrition support: As the disease progresses, many patients will experience difficulty swallowing, and may require a feeding tube for nutrition support.
  7. Palliative care: Palliative care can help to improve quality of life for patients with ALS and their families. This commonly takes place by managing symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and depression.

Myend & ALS

As the disease progresses, patients may experience a decline in their physical and cognitive abilities, making it difficult for them to plan for their end-of-life care on their own. A end-of-life planner like myend.com can help patients to document their preferences and wishes for their care, and to communicate these to their loved ones and healthcare providers.

Second, as the disease progresses, patients may experience difficulty speaking or communicating, making it even more important to have their end-of-life wishes clearly stated in advance. Myend.com allows patients to write down their preferences in a clear manner. That may include their preferred location of care, their religious or spiritual beliefs, and their wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments.

Third, ALS is a progressive and debilitating disease with no cure, and the patient’s condition may deteriorate rapidly. Having a end-of-life plan in place can give patients and their loved ones peace of mind, knowing that their wishes will be respected and that they will receive the care they want at the end of their life.

Fourth, Myend.com also allows patients to store their important documents, such as their advance directive, last will, and power of attorney in one secure and easily accessible location, ensuring that their loved ones and healthcare providers will have access to them when needed.

Facts & Statistics about ALS

Here are some interesting facts and numbers about ALS:

  • ALS is a rapidly progressive disease, with the average life expectancy of patients being 2-5 years from the time of diagnosis.
  • The incidence of ALS is higher in men than in women, with a male-to-female ratio of 1.5:1.
  • It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 40 and 70, but can occur at any age.
  • About 5-10% of cases of ALS are hereditary and are caused by a genetic mutation in one of several genes, such as SOD1, TARDBP, and FUS.
  • The incidence of ALS is higher in certain populations, such as military veterans, particularly those who served in the Gulf War.
  • There are over 400,000 people living with ALS worldwide.
  • The cost of caring for a person with ALS can be significant, with estimates ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 over the course of the disease.
  • Some famous people who had ALS include: Stephen Hawking, Lou Gehrig, and baseball player Pete Frates.
  • Research is ongoing to better understand the underlying causes of ALS and to develop new treatments.

Please note that ALS is a rare disease and some of the statistics may vary depending on the population and region. Additionally, research in this area is constantly evolving and new information may appear after our knowledge cut-off date.

Final Thoughts

Overall, ALS is a progressive and debilitating disease with no cure. However, with the help of various treatments and therapies, patients can manage their symptoms and prolong survival. It is important for patients and their loved ones to work closely with a team of healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that meets their individual needs.

Overall, myend.com can be a valuable resource for ALS patients and their families, helping them to plan for and navigate the end-of-life process with confidence and dignity.Find out more for yourself with your own free myend account.

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