Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Our primary focus is to slow the progression of the disease and help our clients preserve their independence and improve their quality of life. Recent research is also beginning to confirm that exercise may be a key component in this endeavor. (ScienceDirect). Since each individual is uniquely affected, we customize your program based upon your functional abilities.
What is ALS?
Also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease”, ALS is a non-traumatic, progressive, neurodegenerative motor neuron disease. As motor neurons, essential for body function, degenerate and eventually die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. Over time this may cause total paralysis.
The initial symptoms of ALS can be quite varied in different people. One person may have trouble grasping a pen or lifting a coffee cup, while another person may experience a change in vocal pitch when speaking. ALS is typically a disease that involves a gradual onset.
The rate at which ALS progresses can be quite variable from one person to another. Although the mean survival time with ALS is three to five years, many people live five, 10 or more years. Symptoms can begin in the muscles that control speech and swallowing or in the hands, arms, legs or feet. Not all people with ALS experience the same symptoms or the same sequences or patterns of progression. However, progressive muscle weakness and paralysis are universally experienced.
Gradual onset, generally painless, progressive muscle weakness is the most common initial symptom in ALS. Other early symptoms vary but can include tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps and twitches, and/or uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying.
When the breathing muscles become affected, ultimately, people with the disease will need permanent ventilatory support to assist with breathing.
Since ALS attacks only motor neurons, the sense of sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell are not affected. For many people, muscles of the eyes and bladder are generally not affected.
ALS is a difficult disease to diagnose. There is no one test or procedure to ultimately establish the diagnosis of ALS. It is through a clinical examination and series of diagnostic tests, often ruling out other diseases that mimic ALS, that a diagnosis can be established. A comprehensive diagnostic workup includes most, if not all, of the following procedures:
- Electrodiagnostic tests including electomyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV)
- Blood and urine studies including high resolution serum protein electrophoresis, thyroid and parathyroid hormone levels and 24-hour urine collection for heavy metals
- Spinal tap
- X-rays, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Myelogram of cervical spine
- Muscle and/or nerve biopsy
- A thorough neurological examination
* Information has been provided by the ALS Association http://www.alsa.org/