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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: symptoms, treatment and life expectancy

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

There are several pathologies related to neurons that are connected to muscles. Still, the most serious is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The structure of the motor neurons begins to deteriorate until death, affecting the function of the muscles progressively. Muscles and the quality of life of those who suffer from it. It is most common in people between 40 and 70 years of age, especially in men, but anyone can develop it.

The cause is not known, nor has a cure been discovered, but with a timely diagnosis, treatment can be used to reduce the symptoms and keep them under control for a long time. For this reason, if you need more information about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: symptoms, treatment, and life expectancy, at FastlyHealwe, we will provide it for you.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: What is it?

Motor neurons are part of the central nervous system and are in contact with muscle fibers, whose objective is to transmit nerve impulses for voluntary muscle movement. In this pathology, without knowing why, the motor neurons begin to degrade slowly, and over time they die.

Specific disease cases are not known, but a factor that could be related is genetic inheritance since approximately 10% of patients have a family history of Lou Gehrig’s disease. They could also be triggers:

  • Some metabolic imbalances
  • Viral infections
  • Immune system disorders
  • Exposure to toxic substances

However, none of these factors has been demonstrated as a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

How it is a condition that alters the voluntary muscles, that is, those in which we decide when and where to move them, such as walking, taking an object, or speaking, the involuntary muscles are not affected, so they do not appear heart problems, loss of movement of the eyes or sphincters.

Primary symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

The symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease develop irregularly; the deterioration can begin in one muscle of the body, usually in the extremities, and later affect another. In addition, the speed of damage is also variable, advancing differently in each part of the body, regardless of when the disease and muscles began.

For this reason, it is not possible to generalize on the progress of the disease; being essential to pay attention to the most frequent symptoms of ALS, including:

  • Muscular weakness . It is one of the main symptoms and becomes more evident when living motor neurons are reduced by more than half. You may notice awkward movements, such as dropping objects, tripping often, or even tilting your head to the side due to weak neck muscles.
  • Loss of talent. Coordination is difficult to do certain manual things, for example, buttoning the shirt, writing, or combing the hair.
  • Speech problems . It may start with slow or leisurely speaking, poor pronunciation of words, or changes in the tone of the voice.
  • Reduction of body weight.
  • Tense and stiff muscles. This prevents the correct muscle stretch reflex, causing an exaggerated reflex.
  • Muscle cramps .
  • Fasciculations. They are slight involuntary muscle contractions that can be felt under the skin.
  • Dysphagia or trouble swallowing. It can include drooling, a feeling of tightness in the throat, or choking episodes.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Emotional lability . It is composed of uncontrollable episodes of irritability, laughter, crying, or others and can be due to a more significant reaction to stimuli or without a specific cause. It is considered to occur due to a neuropsychological disorder, but it does not mean dementia or intellectual impairments cases.
  • Paralysis . Its progress depends on the condition of the person and can be total in a period of between 2 to 5 years.

Treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

To diagnose Lou Gehrig’s disease, the doctor focuses on:

  • Physical exploration
  • Blood test
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • In the case of family history, also a genetic analysis.

In addition, to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, it is necessary to perform further studies, such as electromyography, MRI, or cerebral and cervical computed tomography.

Once the diagnosis is made, it is essential to immediately start treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis based on the control and reduction of symptoms since it is a progressive, non-curable disease. Therefore, the supervision and care of the case must be in charge of a multidisciplinary team, including specialists such as physiotherapists, rehabilitation doctors, speech therapists, psychologists, and occupational therapists.

So far, the only drug that specialists recommend to delay the disease but not eliminate it is riluzole since it blocks the stimulation of the release of glutamate, a substance that, in excess, accelerates the damage to motor neurons. Thanks to the fact that it considerably slows down the degeneration, it allows extending the life one more time.

On the other hand, medication is used if warranted to alleviate some symptoms. In contrast, in others, it may be necessary to use specialized devices, such as a wheelchair or an artificial respirator. This will depend on the criteria of the professionals, whose treatment should be adjusted according to the progression of the motor neuron disease. Also, physical therapy is vital to stimulate the muscles, and only professionals can offer guidance on the exercises that best suit the condition.

Life expectancy due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Due to complications from the progressive deterioration of motor neurons, the estimated life expectancy is not very encouraging and tends to be variable. On average, a person with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can live for three years from diagnosis, while 20% of cases manage to live for more than five years, and only 10% have survival of more than ten years; however, there is a possibility that it will last for only a few months.

Although the prognosis of life depends on how the disease develops in each person, prompt treatment is usually of great help to prolong survival time compared to the absence of medical intervention, in addition to improving the quality of life. Therefore, it the importance to seek the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as soon as the symptoms become evident or there is a family history of the disease.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: symptoms, treatment, and life expectancy, we recommend entering our Brain and nerves category.

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