ALS / Lou Gehrig's disease

ALS / Lou Gehrig's disease

Also called ALS, Charcot Disease or Motor Neuron Disease (MND), is a chronically progressive disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons and nerve roots that control voluntary movements of the human body.

Lou Gehrig’s disease causes ascending muscle weakness and atrophy, as the upper and lower motor neurons seem to slowly degenerate. By slowly losing muscle function muscle twitches gradually develop caused by the denervation of the muscles, eventually culminating in irreversible atrophy. Patients ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control voluntary muscle movement. On the other hand; bladder, sphincter, eye muscle, and sexual organ control is usually preserved intact in most cases.

Cognitive function is not usually affected either, except in certain situations where it is associated with front-temporal dementia (which does not seem to be the norm). The autonomic and sensory nervous system generally remains functional throughout the patient’s lifetime.

The condition is called Lou Gerig 's disease, which is named after a famous New York Yankees baseball player, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 and then died in 1941 at the age of 37. To date physicist Stephen Hawking's, Jason Becker the guitar virtuoso are a few of the other well known celebrities who have suffered from this chronically degenerative disease.

History

1850 – Augustus Waller a well known and respected scientist identifies shriveled nerve endings in a patient.

1869 – Medical physician Jean-Martin Charcot gives detailed descriptions of now known Lou Gehrig’s disease in French scientific literature for the first time.

1881 - "On Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis" a French book about ALS is published and brought to America including information on Diseases of the human Nervous System.

1939 - ALS Becomes an important cause to fight against in the United States, because of legend Lou Gehrig's career ending due to the disease which ended his life 2 years later.

Causes

In approximately 10 % of cases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, for its acronym in English) is caused by a genetic defect, while in other cases; the cause is unknown or undiscovered to date.

In ALS, your neurons deactivate or die and can no longer send messages of movement or sensibility to muscles; this in turn creates a loss of muscle strength, twitching, and the inability to move ones limbs and eventually body. ALS is chronically deteriorating, and it eventually leads to a weakening of the muscles in the chest area; as these muscles stop working, it becomes increasingly difficult if not impossible for the afflicted to continue breathing.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affects about 1 out of every 100,000 people according to US statistics.

With the exception of having a family member who has a hereditary form of the disease, there are no known risk factors that have been linked with this disease at all.

Symptoms

Symptoms seem to be insidious, and they usually do not develop until after the age of 50. Patients suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), debut with symptoms of weakened muscle strength and loss of functional coordination; these symptoms are not stationary, they chronically become debilitating and worsen over time. As expected with the progression of the disease, the ability to do routine activities such as climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, or swallowing become increasingly difficult.

Accessory breathing and swallowing muscles seem to be the first to become affected by ALS. As the disease gets worse, more and more muscle groups develop the same type of problems.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) does not affect the senses such as sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch, nor does it affect bladder or bowel function or a person's ability to think, reason, or continue having the exact same personality that they once had.

Other symptoms may include:

• Muscle twitching (Beginning with distal extremities such as hands and feet).

• Leg and Arm muscle cramps.

• Loss of motor control in hands and arms.

• Impairment in the use of arms and legs.

• Constant unlikely trips and falls.

• Dropping objects such as glasses and mugs.

• Persistent muscle fatigue.

• Uncontrollable periods of laughter or sorrow.

• Slurred or thickened speech and difficulty in projecting ones voice.

• Pain and discomfort during paralysis, cramps and twitching.