ALS, a disease much associated with Lou Gehrig, the MLB player has been researched on by many doctors for years. A definitive treatment plan has not been found because of the speed at which the disease progresses.
The neurodegenerative disorder affects the upper or the lower motor neurons that result in effects felt or seen in the brain or around the spine. The motor neurons reside in the frontal lobe and the degeneration is associated with spread of toxin proteins from one neuron to another. There also is reduction of the recycling for misfolded proteins, inflammation of neurons and a lot of protein mis-folding. These causes result in the neurodegenerative disorder.
The unfortunate fact is that there are no treatments for the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Therefore, medicine and therapies available are there to prevent unnecessary complications, keep the patient comfortable and slowing down the progression speed of the condition. Some of the available and prescribed treatment options include:
This is the only medication that has been approved by the FDA for treatment and management of ALS. It has shown good results and good responses in patients. Riluzole slows down progression in most patients by reducing level of glutamate, a chemical messenger that is considerably high in most patients with ALS. Glutamate overexcites nerve cells.
ALS treatments are minimal and to minimize the pain or discomfort associated with the disease patients will be prescribed other medications for muscle cramps, fatigue, pain, spasticity, excess phlegm/ salivation, sleeping problems, depression, emotional outbursts and constipation.
- Physical therapy
The disease affects motor neurons. This means that movement is problematic. Pain medication may be given and mobility, bracing, and walking equipment offered. The exercises will help you maintain your cardiovascular fitness and general motion for as long as possible.
A physical therapist will also be recommended for you to be accustomed to a walker, wheelchair or a brace. Ramps will also be necessary.
Good exercise pumps your blood and lead to release of endorphins or, feel good hormones. These biomolecules released into your blood will enhance your feeling of wellbeing. Pain and muscle spasms can also be prevented and regulated in the same way.
- Speech therapy
To promote continuous communication with the patient, speech therapy is advised. Muscles around your mouth are affected by the disease therefore a speech therapist will come in handy to ease communication. Technological applications will come in handy in later stages. An occupational therapist will also be necessary to help with grooming and eating.
- Breathing therapy
With time, patients with ALS will experience problems breathing. This is because of muscle weaknesses throughout your body. Regular testing of your breathing is therefore very important. Your doctors may advice and recommend use of breathing devices for ventilation especially at night. Patients with advanced ALS may require tracheostomy for breathing.
- Nutritional care and support
Good nutrition is important for ALS patients. Nutritional supplements such as multivitamins, creatine, magnesium, calcium with vitamin D, thiamin, vitamin E, omega 3 oils, coenzyme Q10, vitamin A, alpha-lipoic acid, flaxseed and vitamin C will help.
In conclusion, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal disease that claims the lives of all its victims. Education and awareness on the disease causes, treatment and the best care and support should be spread all around the world. With no cure, the management drugs and therapies should be used. There is also need for support from governments in terms of funding to research institutions as they tirelessly search for a cure.
Grace Linden is a renowned neurologist and a campaigner for government support in searching for ALS treatments. Read more on her work and learn more about ALS on her articles published in medical journals and websites.