Understanding Lou Gehrig’s Disease


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is most popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous New York slugger who succumbed to the disease in 1941. The name amyotrophic literally means no muscle nourishment. The lateral sclerosis part of the disease name means that the disease leaves scarring on the spin chord. The abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is ALS.

ALS attacks the nerve cells that help control the voluntary muscles. As the disease progresses the motor neurons in both the spine and brain deteriorate and waste away. Patients become significantly disabled and may die from secondary conditions such as pneumonia. ALS significantly causes paralysis of the voluntary muscles, but most patients are not cognitively impaired and find other ways of communication when they lose the ability to speak. Essentially their five senses remain normal. Many even manage to maintain bladder and bowel control.

There are two kinds of ALS. One that affects less than usual, 5% of those with the disease seems to have a genetic element. The most common form of ALS is what is termed sporadic, which means it can be developed by anyone at any time. ALS attacks mostly adults between the ages of 40 and 70. ALS does not favor one gender over the other, and it occurs equally among men and women. There have been many documented cases of ALS in teens, but it is still a disease that affects mostly older adults.

The early stages of ALS can be very difficult to diagnose and other neurological conditions need to be ruled out before the doctor can confirm the condition is truly ALS. Early symptoms may include a general clumsiness in the patient. The patient will also experience periods of slurred speech and unusual fatigue in the limbs. They may also experience severe leg cramps and muscle spasms. Some patients with ALS report periods of uncontrolled laughing or crying.

As ALS progresses the muscles in the mid-body area affected and eventually swallowing, eating, and even breathing become extremely labored. Many times ALS patients go on ventilators in order to live at this point. The mind of the patient is still normal and most are not cognitively impaired through communication in any normal form is not possible for most ALS patients at this stage of the disease. ALS is fatal in its end-stage and many choose not to live longer on life support.

However, you can control the symptoms and the effects of Lou Gehrig’s Disease if you identify it at an early stage. The experienced clinicians at The Spine Institute of Central NJ are also there for the best treatment of this chronic disease. You get thebes

The doctor will perform a number of different tests to determine if a patient’s muscle weakness is truly ALS. Electromyography is an electrical study of muscle and this test is commonly used by doctors to detect ALS in patients in the early stages of the disease. To ultimately confirm a diagnosis of ALS the doctor may take a small piece of muscle tissue and send it to a pathologist for evaluation. This is known as a biopsy.

There have been may advance to improve the quality of life for patients with ALS over the years. Most patients find they can temporarily improve function with the help of intensive physical therapy and other forms of functional rehabilitation. Many ALS patients will resort to using combinations of braces and walkers to maintain mobility.