Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, sometimes called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is known to be a rapidly progressive disease that involves the body’s motor neurons. Neurons are a type of conducting cells of the nervous system. When these cells are “ailing” it affects the upper and lower motor neurons and causes the cells to degenerate or often times die. This keeps the cells from being able to send messages to our brain to start and control voluntary movement of our muscles. When the muscles are unable to function they become weak, start twitching and eventually waste away. If the muscles in the diaphragm and chest area become affected, gradually the ability to breath may occur and there will be a need for breathing support to be used.

ALS most commonly strikes adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. It is estimated more than 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with ALS. These numbers are growing and are becoming alarming. Although it is said ALS is incurable, more and more people are finding that their symptoms can possibly be reversed by using alternative methods.

ALS affects only the motor neurons and not a person’s mind or their ability to think. Often times this brings about depression because they may not be able to accomplish the same physical things they once could. An ALS person is still the same person they were before their diagnosis but usually become of greater character because of their challenges.

There are many studies being conducted in the United States but none are proving to be effective as of today. ALS is a very difficult disease to diagnose and sometimes can be miss-diagnosed. ALS research is going in many directions and is not just limited to pharmaceutical drugs. Also, infectious diseases such as HIV, human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV), and Lyme disease can cause ALS type symptoms. Toxic metals and chemicals can cause neurological disorders. Alternative medicine is proving that symptoms can be reversed and patients can regain normal lives.

Symptoms of ALS

True ALS symptoms can be very gradual and frequently overlooked. Other “diagnosed” ALS patients have had symptoms to appear very rapidly.

•          The earliest symptoms can be weakness, twitching, stiffness, or cramping of muscles.

•          Most of these muscle symptoms will start in an arm or a leg.

•          Stumbling or tripping more than usual.

•          Muscle twitches that can be seen under the skin (fasciculations)

•          Difficulties with speech.

•          Difficulty with chewing and swallowing (dysphagia)

•          Overactive gag reflex

•          Difficulty forming words (dysarthria).

•          Slurred speech and a nasally sounding speech.

•          An awkward feeling when walking or running

•          Unsteadiness

•          Spasticity or stiffness and tight muscles.

•          Abnormal reflexes (hyperreflexia)

•          Foot drop

•          Muscles began to atrophy

•          Breathing difficulties

•          Periods of laughter or periods of crying and not understanding why

•          Depression

•          A positive Babinski’s sign

How is ALS diagnosed?

A patient’s clinical history is the first suspect of ALS. As the patient’s symptoms progress and involves several areas of the body, it is possible to make the first diagnosis based on the way the patient looks and his or her findings on the neurological examination.

There are several types of test that should also be used to diagnose ALS.

•          CT scan (Computerized tomographic scanning)

•          MRI (Magnetic imaging

•          Blood test

•          EMG (Electromyography)

New ALS Treatments

Traditional treatments treat ALS as a universal disease, “one size fits all”. The problems can be a symptom of something else going on in the body. While traditional treatment can deal with the symptoms, those treatments do not focus on the cause. Something has happened to the body to cause the neurons not to fire like they should. If only 5 to 10 percent of ALS is inherited, shouldn’t we consider where the other 90 to 95 percent of ALS comes from?

Glossary for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease):

•          Atrophy- the wasting away in the size of a cell, tissue,organ, or part.

•          Babinski’s sign- a test performed by stimulating the sole of the foot in a certain way. A positive Babinski’s sign is when the patient’s big toe extends upward.

•          Dysphagia- difficulty in swallowing.

•          Dysphasia- impairment of speech, consisting in lack of coordination.

•          Dysarthria- not being able to articulate speech due to the disturbances of muscle control.

•          Fasciculations- small local contractions of muscles which can be seen visibly through the skin.

•          Hyperreflexia- response to stimuli characterized by exaggeration of reflexes.

•          Neuron- conducting cells of the nervous system which has many purposes such as sending impulses to the brain.

•          Reflexes- the reflected action or movement. The sum total of any involuntary action or movement.

•          Spasticity- when the muscles are stiff and the actions are awkward characterized by spasms.

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