Lou Gehrig Disease
Name of Condition
Lou Gehrig Disease, also known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
Lou Gehrig Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that degrades nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing motor neurons to degenerate. Without motor control from the brain, voluntary muscles weaken and may become fully paralyzed in later stages of the disease.
Description, Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of ALS may include: muscle weakness in one or more of the following: hands, arms, legs or the muscles of speech, swallowing or breathing; twitching (fasciculation) and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet; impairment of the use of the arms and legs; "thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice; in more advanced stages, shortness of breath, or difficulty in breathing and swallowing
Some people with ALS may experience very mild symptoms at first, which may be barely noticeable. Symptoms like muscle weakness typically occur first in the hands and feet, and spread to other muscles of the body over time, eventually affecting the muscles that control breathing and swallowing. (ALSA.org)
Although most cases of Lou Gehrig's Disease are not directly inherited but rather arise sporadically, there can be a genetic predisposition to ALS. There are about 20% of cases that do involve direct inheritance of the condition, which can be determined by a genetic counselor by doing a family history. Some of these cases are due to a mutation in the SOD1 gene on the 21st chromosome. Mutations in this gene affect free radical detoxification, and may contribute to forming a substance that is toxic to motor neurons.
The majority of Americans affected by Lou Gehrig's Disease are Caucasian (93%) and male (60%). Approximately 5,600 new people are diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease every year. Most people with ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, and the average age of diagnosis is 55 for both men and women. There have been rare cases of diagnosis in the 20s or 30s.
ALS is difficult to diagnose because of it's initially mild symptoms. If an individual has symptoms of the condition or has a family history, a physician may choose to test for it in one or more of the following ways: electrodiagnostic tests including electomyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV); blood and urine studies including high resolution serum protein electrophoresis, thyroid and parathyroid hormone levels and 24 hour urine collection for heavy metals; spinal tap; x-rays, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); myelogram of cervical spine;a muscle and/or nerve biopsy; or by a thorough neurological examination. (ALSA.org)
Treatment and Management
There are currently clinical centers located throughout the United States that provide physical therapy treatment to alleviate the physical symptoms of ALS to maintain functionality and independence. Medication may be taken to help if there is physical pain, although this is a rare symptom. There are many support networks for people with this condition, which can be found through the ALS Association's website, ALSA.org.
ALS progresses differently in every patient, and may progress quickly or slowly. The average life expectency, depending on the time of diagnosis and the treatments used, varies between 3 and 5 years. Some people experience much longer lives, however, with up to 10% of people living for 10 years, and 5% living for another 20 years. There are patients in whom the ALS goes through remission, and even cases where the symptoms stop progressing and the patients stabilize and remain in whatever state they had reached by that time.
AccessDNA.com - ALS: http://www.AccessDNA.com/condition/Amyotrophic_Lateral_Sclerosis/35