Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS) is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. One of the first amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms noticeable is the inability or loss of control of voluntary muscles which is evident from shaky limbs and extremities.
Studies has reported that about 20,000 people are living with ALS in the United States with about 6,400 new cases every year, it is common among the aged population, and more common in men than women.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was discovered in 1939 and named Lou Gehrig’s disease because it was first discovered from a famous baseball player Lou Gehrig. It is of two types namely- sporadic and familiar ALS. About 5-10% of all ALS cases are attributed to genetic disorders and inheritance.
Some of the risk factors of ALS are:
2. Lead exposure
3. Free radical damage or oxidative stress
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms
The symptoms experienced and the severity is dependent on which type of ALS you are suffering from. Both sporadic and familiar ALS cause progressive degradation and loss of motor neurons in the brain, the kind of symptoms experienced depends on the area of the brain affected and it also varies between people.
If the medulla oblongata is affected, the heart and lungs will be affected and as such breathing and heart functions will be impaired.
The following under listed are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms:
1. Slurred speech: This occurs when the speech center is affected by the disease, so also the neurons that serve the oral cavity and the voice box.
2. Hoarse voice
3. Swallowing difficulties and inability to chew properly while the disease progresses.
4. Excessive or overbearing emotional responses such laughing or crying uncontrollably.
5. Saliva drooling.
6. Enlargement of the tongue (atrophy).
7. Breathing difficulties: Inability to breathe properly or frequent cardiac is one of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms that emanates from the medulla oblongata being affected by the disease.
8. Inability to limp due to flaccid limping muscles
9. Muscle twitching and frequent muscular cramps: Progressive neuromuscular decline is a sign of ALS every neurologists watch out for as it is a first line sign of ALS.
10. Breathing weakness which may arise from weakness in the diaphragm muscle. This may get worse if the breathing muscles (e.g. pectoral muscles) are affected.
11. Difficulty walking
12. Weight loss
13. Cognitive impairment
14. Dementia, slowed thinking, frequent loss of attention and partial loss of memory
These amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms are caused by damage to the frontal lobe neurons; as for dementia, a family history of dementia may trigger dementia so an exclusive diagnosis will be necessary to properly diagnose ALS.