November 23, 2014
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS, is a disease that is heartbreaking to those that it affects as well as their families. Approximately 5,600 people within the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year meaning that 2 in every one hundred thousand deaths are ALS related. The disease is terminal however after being diagnosed one could live anywhere from 5 to 10 years and in some rare causes up to 20 years. (NINDS) Currently there is no cure for the disease and little treatment that can prolong the effects but they can be managed. Many strides have and are being made to help people affected by this terrible and completely life changing disease. Statistically ALS is the most common neurological disease in the US yet it does not have a definite diagnosis, it can only be diagnosed based on the symptoms that a neurologist sees in a patient after testing. Eventually these symptoms completely take over the body and ultimately become fatal. It is important for the public to fully understand what ALS is, whom this disease can affect what exactly happens if affected, who has already been effected, and where research is headed in finding a cure before many more lives are lost to this terrible illness.
ALS is a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells in ones body that controls voluntary movements. These movements consist of typical arm, leg, and face movements that are necessary when upholding a normal everyday life. Typically it takes one a while to recognize these symptoms until the disease has progressed greatly. The early symptoms include but are not limited to: muscle weakness, muscle cramps, slurred speech, and a difficulty chewing or swallowing. It is completely unknown what causes ALS however it does occur in most people between ages 60-69 and is hereditary in about ten percent of cases. There are no racial tendencies in which the disease affects however scientists do know what causes the disease within people who are diagnosed. A mutation of the SD01 protein within the brain is what scientists cause the disease. This mutation happens randomly without any known cause. It is also unknown how this protein causes neurologic disorders; it is only known that it happens due to this mutation. It was not until 2011 that scientists found mutations within other genes that could be a possible cause of ALS but as well as studies about the SD01 protein they are very limited and many questions are still left completely un answered. Many scientists dedicate their lives into finding the answers to these extremely important questions. (NINDS)
When diagnosed with ALS one has typically been dealing with symptoms for a long period of time due to the extensive testing that one must undergo before being officially diagnosed. An ALS diagnosis is one that is not taken lightly and is only officially given after all other options of what the symptoms could indicate have been completely eradicated. Giving an ALS diagnosis is one that any neurologist would hope to never have to give due to the fact that it is a terminal disease. As stated before the disease affects most voluntary motor functions that a person needs to live a full life. ALS belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases. (About) These disorders are grouped together by the motor functions that they affect. Motor neuron cells are located within the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord and connect to other nerves throughout the human body. ALS slowly gains control of the entire body through these cells. There is no set order on which motor functions are lost first or how quickly the loss in functions occurs. Some cases lose all motor function and in others only a few motor functions are lost. Typically ALS begins as not being able to hold arms or legs steady due to a loss in strength. These symptoms are not to be confused with Parkinson’s Disease where a person will consistently…