Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Treatment & Symptoms

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease affects motor neuron nerve cells in brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons slowly degenerates and die. Thus brain lose control of muscle movement and slowly the patient gets paralysed. Disease is usually found among men at the age of 40 to 60.


Difficulty to walk, write and talk. Then the patient gets paralysed slowly and later on completely. Respiratory failures are also seen which results in death of patient. Some develop depression and has problem with thinking and decision making also.


There is no specific cause and it occures random. It is also said that the desease occurs due to defective functioning of genes producing SOD1enzyme. About 10% of the patients inherit the disease.


ALS does not have any treatment so far. Some medicines can cure symptoms or can increase the life period of patient FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved a drug, riluzole (Rilutek). This reduces damage to neurons and prolongs survival. But the drug does not repair the damaged cells. This drug is likely to cause liver damage and other side effects are also possible. Treatments usually cure the patients from symptoms and grant them prolonged life. Patients are helped to keep on moving and stay comfortably. Usually they are treated by a group of doctors and therapists and they design individual plan for each patients. Physical treatment like medication reduces many troubles and drugs like painkillers are given. They are also treated for depression, constipation etc. Social workers, speach therapist, nutritionist etc can help the patients to lead normal life. Gentle exercise can help the patient to improve muscular strength. With the aid of equipments like wheel chair patients can remain mobile. Nutritional support is also essential.

Some other drugs tried are antibiotic minocycline (Minocin), tamoxifen given to breast cancer patients, the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) which nourishes the nerve. Researchers are trying to develop combination medicines. Stem cell therapy is also under research. This is tried to repair damaged neurons. Baclofen (Lioresal), Tizanidine (Zanaflex), Pyridostigmine (Mestinon, Regonol) are also tried to relieve severe spasticity.

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