Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an illness that affects the nerve cells in the brain that help control voluntary muscle movement. Over time, the nerve cells begin to break down and are unable to send messages to the muscles of the body, slowly robbing a person of their ability to walk, move their arms and even breathe on their own.
About 90 percent of cases of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis are caused by unknown factors. The remaining 10 percent are caused by a genetic defect. While there is some understanding of how Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis develops, there are no known risk factors for this rare disease, which affects about five out of every 100,000 people.
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle contractions
- Progressive weakening
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty swallowing, which leads to choking and gagging
- Speech problems
- Weight loss
There is no cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis but there are medications and therapies available to help prolong the affects of the illness. Certain oral medications can help control muscle weakness and spasticity. Physical therapy is also very helpful for patients diagnosed with the illness because it allows patients to use their muscles and keep them from atrophying. Patients may also need breathing support and possible feeding tubes to reduce the risk of choking.