What is ALS Disease? What are the symptoms of ALS Disease? Is it the same as Lou Gehrig’s Disease?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a form of motor neuron disease. ALS, sometimes called Maladie de Charcot is a progressive, fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. The condition is often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease in North America, after the New York Yankees baseball icon who was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 and died from it in 1941, at age thirty-seven.
What are the symptoms of ALS Disease? ALS Disease causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body as both the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, develop fasciculations (twitches) because of denervation, and eventually atrophy because of that denervation. The patient may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement; bladder and bowel sphincters and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually (but not always) spared.
Medical practitioners said that initial symptoms of ALS are frequently overlooked. The earliest symptoms of ALS Disease are obvious weakness and/or muscle atrophy. This is followed by twitching, cramping, or stiffness of affected muscles; muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg; and/or slurred and nasal speech. The twitching, cramping, etc. associated with ALS is a result of the dying motor neurons, therefore these symptoms without clinical weakness or atrophy of affected muscle is likely not ALS.
As many as 20,000 Americans have ALS Disease, and an estimated 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the ALS disease each year. ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide, and people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are affected. ALS most commonly strikes people between 40 and 60 years of age, but younger and older people also can develop the disease. Men are affected more often than women.
ALS disease can result from a series of factors including free radicals, misfolded protein, aggregated aberrant protein, excitotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis.
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