ALS(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a progressive motor neurone degenerative disease. The disease has different subcathegories but will in the end develope equally and lead to death - usually within the shortness of 3-5 years. This disease has no cure, only a few possibilities of slowing down the progress to help the rapid developement of the life changing symptoms and effects.
History and general information
ALS, MND(motor neurone disease) or Lou Gehrig’s disease is first noted in a report by Charles Bell in 1824. Although the disease was made «famous» when the baseball player Lou Gehrig died from it in 1939, there is still little awareness of the disease, eventhough the incidence of ALS is five times more likely than Huntington’s disease and on the same level as Multiple Sclerosis. ALS usually develop within the ages of 40 and 70, but it can effect people earlier. There are no known boundaries when it comes to race or etniticity.(Hopkinsmedicine.org, 2013)
This progressive degeneration of motor neurones affects both the upper and lower motor neurons, which means both the brain and spinal cord are impaired. What happens is what we call demyelination of the axons. Demyelination is damage and dissapearance of the myelin sheath which is needed for the conduction of signals.
When the motor neurones can no longer send strong enough signals to the muscles, muscle weakness and atrophy starts taking it’s toll.
Although the disease impairs the patients ability to preform daily tasks, makes them lose the ability to move, ALS will not affect a person’s intellect, or senses.
There are two main types of ALS: Bulbar onset(25%) and limb onset (75%). Bulbar onset is the less contracted type, and the difference between the bulbar onset and the limb onset is where the symptoms start; Bulbar onset symptoms usually start with difficulties with the tongue, whereas limb onset is quite clearly when the limbs are the part to be affected first.
Most people(75%) diagnosed with ALS will say the earliest symptoms started with clumsiness. Being human, clumsiness is something that is not taken as a serious symptom if this is the only thing you are experiencing in an early stage. But the clumsiness starting when having ALS is often caused by drop foot. Drop foot is an abnormality in walking, which is characterized by the inability to flex the foot upwards. The next symptom which is mostly noted is cramping, tremors and fasciculations. These cramps may also be regarded as normal by the person and the tremors often start out so small one would not give it another thought or even notice.
These symptoms will after a while start becoming more severe, and what is repeatedly seen in patients medical records is what led them to seek medical attention is often severe falls without any reason for them. The earliest symptoms of the bulbar onset ALS are slurred or hoarse speech, difficulty swallowing and problems related to the tongue.