Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neurological disease which causes degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord that control the movement of voluntary muscles.
The causes of ALS are not clear yet but some possibilities are:
- Damage to motor neurons
- Heavy metals
- Abnormal immune system
- Abnormal enzymes
- Muscle weakness, usually in the limbs
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle cramps
- Twitching in the muscles
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Difficulty in breathing
- Slurred speech
- Excessive salivation
There is no cure for ALS and the treatment involves only management of symptoms. It includes:
Breathing devices: since breathing becomes more and more difficult as the disease progresses, suitable breathing devices need to be used to aid breathing.
- Medication: Certain medications may be used to provide some relief from symptoms like pain, muscle cramps and excessive salivation. They may also help in slowing down the progression of the disease.
- Physical therapy: Since muscles get affected, physical therapy can help to maintain muscle strength for some time.
- Speech therapy: The tongue gets affected making it difficult to speak. With the help of speech therapy, some level of clarity of speech may be maintained.