ALS: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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ALS: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

AKA Lou Gehrig's Disease

What is ALS disease?

ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Video Describing ALS and Lou Gehrig

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a type of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) that causes degeneration of a patient’s upper and lower motor neurons. The motor neuron is an integral part of the human body located in the spinal and brain stem area, and it is a nerve which relays information to the brain that controls all voluntary muscle movement, including chewing, speaking, eye and tongue movements. ALS victims’, usually aged 40 to 70, motor neurons begin to degrade and patients will start to loose all manners of movement, entering a state of full body paralysis.

Symptom Progression...

The diagnosis of ALS is usually a lengthy and complicated process, as there are no unique characteristics of ALS that a physician can identify. To diagnose a patient with ALS, doctors must go through a process of elimination to rule out all other possible diseases that curable. The early symptoms of a patient with ALS would first suffer obvious muscle weakness and atrophy in a single limb. Sometimes they would also have twitching and regular cramps of the affected muscle. Parts of the body affected by early symptoms depend upon which motor neurons are affected first by ALS. Around 75 percent of ALS patients begin to experience its symptoms in the arms and legs first. Whilst others start to have difficulty in speaking, swallowing or breathing due to weakness in those muscles.In later stages of ALS, a patient may suffer a complete paralysis in one limb, and in a span of 2 years the condition will most likely spread and worsen to a complete paralysis state where most patients would need a portable ventilator to assist in breathing or a tracheotomy. After reaching the most severe state of ALS, most patients would past away in around 39 months due to respiratory failure or aspiration pneumonia caused by improper swallowing. Only around 4% of patients survive longer than 10 years.Unforunately...There are currently no cures for ALS, however, drugs such as Riluzole (decreases bodies' production of glutamate as an excess of glutamate in ALS nerve cells was believed to cause cell death, varied results with controversial side effects) prolong and increase the survival rate of a patient for a few months, and many other forms of temporary pain relief are available. Speech and muscle therapy can significantly slow the progression of ALS in a patient. However to this day, when ALS is diagnosed, a severe disability state of the patient is an inevitable future.

Stephen Hawking

Further Details: DNA

Stephen Hawking is currently a leading physicist of modern times, forming numerous theories about black holes, space, time and the universe in general. What made his feats perhaps more incredible was that Hawking began to show symptons of ALS when he was 21, much younger than usual patients and a very rare form of ALS too. Doctors gave him a life expectancy of 2 years, however, he lived for more than 50 years in a state of full paralysis, and to this day, is still actively involved in discovering new theories for science. To learn more about Stephen Hawkings, click his picture above.


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