11 Keys to better understanding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, it is a rapidly progressing neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for the control of voluntary muscles.

1. The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by gradual degeneration and the death of motor neurons. Motor neurons are nerve cells found in the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord, which control and communicate the nervous system with the voluntary muscles of the body. Voluntary muscles are those that we are able to control, such as those of the arms, legs or face.

2. The first symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are subtle and may include muscle spasms, cramps or stiffness, muscle weakness affecting an arm or leg, slurring and nasal speech, and difficulty chewing or swallowing.

3. In ALS, motor neurons degenerate or die and stop sending messages to the muscles, making them no longer able to function. The muscles gradually weaken, they lose their ability to contract (they atrophy). Over time, the brain loses the ability to initiate and control voluntary movement, and paralysis of muscles.

4. Over time, all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and individuals lose the strength and ability to move the muscles of the extremities and trunk, as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and breathing. The person progressively loses the ability to walk, dress, write, speak and / or swallow. When the muscles of the diaphragm wall and chest fail, people lose the ability to breathe if they are not assisted.

5. Most people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis die of respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. However, approximately 10% of people with ALS survive for 10 years or more.

6. It does not affect the mind or intelligenceAlthough recent studies suggest that people with ALS may have depression or impaired cognitive functions that involve memory and decision-making.

7. There is two different types for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis:sporadic is the most common way of the disease (90-95%), and can affect anyone, anywhere; and thefamily (5–10%). The family type means that the disease is hereditary, that is to say that those family where it appears there is a 50% probability that the offspring will inherit the gene mutation and develop the disease.

8. The cause is unknown of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, why it strikes some people and not others. Recent studies show that some mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme could be associated with some cases of familial ALS.

9. ELA it is not contagious.

10. The incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is 2 in 100,000 people.

11. The riluzole is the first approved treatment for slow progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in some people. Reduces damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate. There are other treatments for ALS that are designed to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients.

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Video: Current treatment options for ALS

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