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Lou Gehrig’s Disease by Julie Owen

By at January 22, 2013 | 6:33 pm | Print

Lou Gehrig’s disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a motor neuron disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There are upper and lower motor neurons that are both a part of the neuromuscular system. The upper motor neurons send messages from the brain to the spinal cord, while the lower motor neurons send those messages from the spinal cord to the muscles in the rest of the body. The neuromuscular system is what lets us do the things we do every day. It enables us to move around and breathe. This disease causes the nerve cells in the body to slowly die and eventually fail sending messages to muscles in the body. This causes the muscles to become much weaker and smaller. It most commonly affects adults from the ages of 45-65.

Unfortunately, this disease is fatal, and death usually occurs between three to five years after diagnosis. There are no potential risks in getting this disease unless it is hereditary. Studies show that one out of ten cases of ALS are hereditary, and five out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with this disease worldwide. This disease was named after the famous Yankees baseball player Lou Gehrig who died from ALS in the 1930s.

People with ALS disease can usually start to feel changes in their body right away. Not all patients with ALS experience the exact same symptoms initially, but muscle weakness is the most common symptom that is a common sign of ALS. The initial symptoms can include: weakness in one of their limbs, weight loss, and muscle cramps. As time progresses, the symptoms will appear to get much worse. Difficulty in swallowing, chewing, or speaking and difficulty in standing, walking, or running are all common symptoms of this disease. Once there is failure in the lungs, it makes it very difficult to keep the patient alive. Although ALS affects most of the physical capabilities, it does not affect the senses. People with ALS are still able to see, touch, smell, taste, and hear. Rarely, it affects the ability to think and reason.

Although there is no known cure for ALS, there are alternative treatments to help with the disease. Medicines, physical therapy, and equipment help assist with prolonging the patient’s death. Some of the medicines include: Baclofen and Trihexyphenidyl. Baclofen helps loosen the muscles in the body, so the patient doesn’t feel the intensity of the muscle cramps like before. Trihexyphenidyl helps the patients with difficulty in swallowing.

Physical therapy is also a common form of treatment. When the patients have difficulty breathing, they will need a constant mechanical ventilation to help them keep breathing. A Gastrostomy is also needed when the patient experiences choking. To help with the eating, the patients will have feeding tubes placed inside them.  A Nutritionist is also very important to have with this disease. Because of the excessive loss of weight, a nutritionist will help with determining the right amount of calories that need to be obtained in the body.


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