There are many known diseases in the world that we live in today affecting a wide range of individuals of different ages, ethnicities, and genders. With each type of disease comes a diagnosis, prognosis, and potential for a cure from one of life’s many ailments. Over the course of time, technology has began to lead the way in discovering as well as treating many disease in which doctors previously knew little about. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, was first described in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. In 1939 ALS brought international attention when Lou Gehrig abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with the disease(6).
Today there are as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States that have ALS with an estimated 5,000 people being diagnosed with the disease each year. While the disease can affect all races and ethnic backgrounds, it is more common among men than in women. The typical onset of ALS is generally between the ages of forty and sixty, however, individuals that are younger and older can also develop the disease as well. There are no clear risk factors associated in 90 to 95 percent of all sporadic or noninherited forms ALS. Only five to ten percent of all diagnosis’s are inherited from one parent who carries the gene responsible for the disease(2). It is clear that there are many statistics surrounding ALS with such a wide range of unknown potential causes, but what do medical professional know about it thus far?
ALS is a rapidly progressive motor neuron disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Upper motor neurons within the brain are responsible for transmitting vital communication links between the nervous system to lower motor neurons in the spinal cord to control voluntary muscle movement of the body.(12) Degeneration of both types of motor neurons leads to sclerosis or a hardening within the region that is affected and eventually leads to their deaths. Once motor neurons die, the brain has an inability to initiate impulses and control muscle movement of the body. Over the course of time as connections between muscles and nerves are damage muscles will gradually become weaker, twitch, and atrophy.
There are many symptoms during the onset of ALS that are often overlooked that can include: Twitching, cramping, muscle stiffness or weakness, slurred and or nasal speech, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. Each patients symptoms vary depending on what muscles are damage first. Individuals can initially have the lower extremities affected or the upper extremities as well as noticeable speech problems. Damage to upper motor neurons can cause spastic muscles and contributes to an increase in reflexes, such as the gag reflex(7). Muscles may become weaker, however, patients are still able to perform voluntary muscle contractions with sensation still intact. Lower motor neuron damage is linked to muscles...