What is ALS? | Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prediction

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Representative Image.

The human body is a wonder, and the most complex part of this body is the brain. For years scientists have researched our brains, they’ve made many significant discoveries, but some brain secrets remain at large. The brain controls every part of our body, from memory to movement. The motor neurons (brain cells) control all our bodily activities such as walking, holding, grasping, etc.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic laterals sclerosis or ALS is a rare condition that attacks our motor neurons. It stops the signals from the brain before they can reach our muscles. Without any stimulation, our muscles grow weaker until they lose function altogether. This disease is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the base ballplayer diagnosed with it.

ALS Symptoms

The first symptoms of ALS are found in the hands, legs, and throat muscles. People have difficulty holding a pen and writing. They can’t stand on their tiptoes, and even swallowing food can be challenging. It usually begins with hands and feet and then spreads all over the body. Most people die of ALS because of heart failure as the heart muscles slowly lose function. Some also die by choking as they have trouble breathing.

ALS Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of ALS is difficult as people can chalk down all the symptoms to stress or nervousness. It is when things get graver that people take the disease seriously. By then, it has progressed to critical levels. A full-body physical examination, checking the family medical history, blood test, spinal fluid test are conducted. An electromyogram and a nerve conduction velocity test is done for the muscles and nerves.

ALS Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure available for ALS as of now. Therefore, medication is prescribed to control the symptoms and slow the degeneration of muscles.

Riluzole is the drug administered to ALS patients. It has shown a significant increase in a patient’s life by controlling and managing the disease’s progress. However, Riluzole cannot stop the disease; it can only slow the process.

Physical therapy is advisable for patients to keep their muscles active. It also helps with the intense pain caused by ALS and heart health.

Patients have to use wheelchairs or Walkers to get by as their bodies cannot move.

ALS Prediction

ALS is a cruel disease, and there have been no survivors to date. 50% of people die within 35 months since the onset or diagnosis of ALS. Less than 10% of patients can make it up to 10 years since diagnosis.

Rare ALS fighter – Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is the only exception to ALS, and the genius scientist lived for 40 years since his diagnosis. He used a wheelchair for the last 20 years of his life. Hawking was a theoretical physicist, and his dreams and hopes were beyond our planet. He wrote numerous best-selling books about the universe and science and had a movie about his life story. A theorem, known as the ‘black hole area’ in 1971, stated that black holes do not shrink over time. The theory proved to be true last month, three years since his passing. He lost a 40 year-long battle to ALS in 2018, when he died peacefully with his family beside him. Nevertheless, Stephen Hawking leaves behind a legacy of science and an indomitable spirit that even ALS couldn’t beat.