Amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. The affected nerve cells, called motor neurons, control different muscles. As the motor neurons die, the patient gradually loses the ability to control the affected body parts. Over time, the patient becomes unable to move, speak, eat or even breathe. Unfortunately, most patients die within three to five years of developing symptoms. Some people, like the physicist Stephen Hawking, can survive for decades. Most patients with ALS start developing symptoms when they are between 40 and 70 years old. The disease is somewhat more common in men than in women. However, there are some common symptoms of ALS in women and men that you might want to look out for.
Types of ALS
Sporadic ALS is by far the most common type in the United States; it affects 90 to 95 percent of patients. It can affect anybody. Familial ALS is a lot rarer. This type runs in families, and a child of a parent with familial ALS has an appalling 50 percent chance of inheriting the responsible gene mutation and possibly developing the disease. Guamanian ALS is a variant seen in people who live on Guam or other islands in the western Pacific. The researchers who described it in the 1950s reported an unusually high incidence of ALS on these islands.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of ALS in women and men are similar. ALS has a gradual onset, so the early symptoms can be subtle and varied. One patient may develop a change in their voice, while another has trouble grasping or lifting small objects. The most common early symptom, however, is weakness in a single body part, like the tongue, face or a limb. As the disease progresses, more motor neurons die, and the weakness spreads to other parts of the body. Other symptoms associated with ALS include the following:
• Twitching muscles
• Decreased coordination of the hands and fingers
• Increased difficulty walking, speaking, eating, swallowing and breathing
Less common symptoms include personality changes and problems with memory or cognition. ALS does not, however, cause numbness or tingling.
How is ALS Treated?
If you are starting to experience some of the common symptoms of ALS, set up a consultation at Dr. Steenblock’s Personalized Regenerative Medicine in San Clemente to learn about our comprehensive approach to treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to get started.