ALS is an acronym for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease. This is a condition that leads to the death of neurons that are responsible for voluntary movement.
Neurons are brain cells which form a giant web across the brain called the ‘connectome’. These neurons each represent different sensations and actions from our body and are also responsible for encoding our memories, emotions and personality.
Clusters of neurons in specific regions such as the motor cortex are responsible for sending and receiving information to the muscles and the nerves, allowing us to move around and to feel feedback from those movements. These are the neurons that are damaged by ALS.
In around 90-95% of cases, the cause for ALS is not known. This is a hereditary disease and in 5-10% of cases, the condition will have been passed on from parents. However, there are many more cases where the condition appears to ‘come from nowhere’.
There is no known cure for ALS and ultimately the condition is fatal. However, there are medications that can help to slow down the progress of the illness, extend the lifespan and potentially ease the symptoms during life. Non-invasive ventilation is also able to both extend the lifespan and improve quality of life during that time.
The average survival from the onset of the symptoms to death is usually two to four years, with roughly 10% surviving for longer than 10 years. The condition affects two 10,000 people in the US every year.
It is critical to be on the lookout for symptoms of ALS. The sooner treatment is started, the sooner medication can be used to try and prolong the life and reduce the severity of the symptoms. In this post, we will look at 13 of the most common symptoms.
1. Difficulty With Normal Activities
The start of ALS can be difficult to notice at first, which means the initial symptoms are often overlooked. This gives the condition time to develop into more obvious weakness.
Thus it is important to be vigilant and ever on the lookout for even mild changes to your usual health. You might first notice this as difficulty in carrying out regular tasks: perhaps you can’t quite coordinate your movements, or perhaps things are taking just a little longer than they used. Perhaps you struggle to sew the thread through your needle, or maybe you struggle cutting carrots.