May is ALS Awareness Month – How Much do You Know About ALS?
Posted: 5/17/2017 9:26 AM by
Amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, better known as ALS, is a disease that affects the spinal cord and brain. Over time, the nerve cells in these areas degenerate more and more, leading to an inability to control one’s muscles. This is a very serious disease and is, unfortunately, a fatal one as well.
This is why May is ALS Awareness Month. The disease may not have a cure right now, but scientists and doctors hope that with time, research, and support, one day a cure can be discovered. To help to bring awareness to ALS, though, you must first know what exactly ALS is. Here is a brief look at some of the ways that ALS can affect that body, as well as some symptoms that you or your senior care aide might notice in your aging loved one if they have it.
What does ALS do?
As mentioned earlier, ALS affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. When these cells, called motor neurons, die, they make it more difficult to move one’s muscles according to one’s will. Eventually, the ALS sufferer may lose the ability to walk, talk, and eventually even breathe on their own.
What causes ALS?
As with many similar diseases there is no clear answer to this question as of yet. What is clear, though, is that there are two different types of ALS: sporadic ALS and familial ALS. The former can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of age, genetics, history, or lifestyle. Almost ninety five percent of all ALS is sporadic ALS, meaning that the person experiencing it has no family history of the disease. This makes it even more difficult to study, as one would expect.
Familial ALS, as one would conclude based on the name, appears in one who has a family history of the disease, and a genetic predisposition towards it. This only accounts for a small percentage of ALS cases, but when ALS appears in a family, one’s offspring has a fifty percent chance of inheriting the disease because of a mutated gene that may or may not have been passed down to them.
Who can get ALS?
As you will know from the previous section, the short answer to this is everyone. Anyone can get ALS, but it appears most often in people aged 40-70. It is also more prevalent in communities of military veterans, although the reasons for this are unknown at this time. Most notably, ALS was contracted by famous baseball player Lou Gehrig, for whose name is often interchangeable with ALS. This is also the disease that famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking suffers from.
What are the symptoms of ALS?
Everyone experiences the onset of ALS symptoms differently, making it a difficult disease to diagnose. However, most of the symptoms are related to muscle weakness, and can present themselves as things like being unable to grasp a cup, speaking at a different pitch, or losing control of muscles in the face, hands, or feet. These muscular symptoms are usually painless, but if they are noticed by you or your senior care aide, you should get your aging loved one to a doctor as soon as possible for treatment.
Now that you know more about ALS, spread the word! The more awareness we can bring to this disease, the better chance we have of eradicating it.
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