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Understanding ALS: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

by Richard

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes the death of nerve cells. This results in difficulties with voluntary muscle movement and thus impacts daily life activities such as talking, walking, swallowing, and breathing. 18,000 people are affected by the disease at any given time in the US. This disease can be fatal if not treated quickly.

What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurological disease affecting parts of the brain and spinal cord nerve cells. The disease causes muscles to weaken, leading to paralysis and eventually death. ALS affects people from all walks of life, regardless of age or gender.

The exact cause of ALS remains unknown. However, it’s believed that damage done by free radicals may play a role in its development. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules created as part of normal cell metabolism that can attack body tissues if they aren’t neutralized by antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

Many studies have suggested that people with low antioxidant levels are more likely to develop ALS than those who don’t have low levels. That’s why Americans aged 50-70 years are more affected by the disease.

Symptoms of ALS

The symptoms of ALS vary from person to person. Some people may experience only a few of the following, while others experience all of them:

  • Weakness in arms, legs, and facial muscles
  • Difficulty walking, speaking, and swallowing
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Problems breathing or swallowing (dysphagia) due to weakness in the throat muscles
  • Difficulty breathing can be caused by thick secretions that build up in the lungs (respiratory failure)
  • Pneumonia caused by food aspiration into the lungs results in impaired swallowing reflexes.

There are two types of ALS. There are spinal ALS and bulbar ALS. According to a study published in Nature Journals, 64% of the participant patients had spinal ALS, and 36% had bulbar ALS.

Causes of ALS

The exact cause of ALS is unknown. It’s thought that genetics and environmental factors play a role in disease development. Some people with ALS have a family history of the disease, which suggests that certain genes may make you more likely to develop ALS than others. Data from the ALS Association shows that 10% of the cases are familial.

In addition, people who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol heavily appear to be at increased risk for developing ALS compared with those who don’t use these substances regularly. However, these associations are inconclusive because many other factors could be responsible for them.

The link between viral infections and an increased risk of developing ALS has been shown in several studies but remains controversial. Researchers continue to investigate this potential link further by conducting large-scale population-based studies across multiple countries ranging from five years up to 30 years after initial exposure.

Contaminated water exposure is also a cause of ALS. Many studies show a connection between Camp Lejeune water contamination and ALS. In fact, a recent article published on the NCBI website states that 27 veterans died due to ALS at Camp Lejeune.

Many other health conditions are associated with Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water exposure. These include bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and many other cancers. If you face any such issue, you can file Camp Lejeune contaminated water lawsuit to get compensation for your problems.

You can hire an attorney or a law firm to help you. Choose a firm with good reviews. Clients usually write reviews about their experience with a service provider. These reviews can give you an idea of what you can expect from the law firm.

You can find reviews on Google My Business listings or the company’s website. TorHoerman Law, for example, has listed all the reviews from previous clients on its website. There are over 50 reviews on the website. The website also lists other data about the firm, such as the number of cases they have fought, years of experience, attorney details, etc.

Diagnosing ALS

The diagnostic process for ALS is often the most challenging and frustrating part of the disease. It can take months or years for a patient to receive an accurate diagnosis, and even then, no definitive tests can confirm whether someone has ALS.

The first step in diagnosing ALS is ruling out other conditions that may mimic its symptoms. These include Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), which share similarities with ALS but have distinct differences in progression and prognosis.

To differentiate between these conditions and ensure you’re dealing with the right problem, your doctor will perform a physical exam and run extensive tests on your body systems to determine if anything else might interfere with the normal function of nerves throughout your body.

Treatments for ALS

There are several treatments that may be used to slow down the progression of ALS. These include:

  • Physical therapy. This can help with muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination. People with ALS need to keep moving their muscles as much as possible so they don’t become stiff or weak.
  • Medication. Medicines such as riluzole (Rilutek) and edaravone have slowed disease progression in some people with ALS. Still, there’s not enough evidence yet to say whether these drugs improve quality of life or extend life expectancy by much more than a few months at best.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Some studies suggest that acupuncture may help improve symptoms in people with ALS by reducing stress levels.

Living With and Treating ALS

Living with and treating ALS is a challenge. The disease progresses until it eventually leads to death, but there are things you can do to manage the symptoms and make life easier for yourself and your loved ones.

There are no cures for ALS, but medication can help slow down the progression of the disease. These medications include:

  • Riluzole (Rilutek): This drug blocks glutamate receptors in the brain that causes nerve cells to die faster than they normally would. It’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment option for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Baclofen: Baclofen is part of an overall treatment plan for people with muscle spasticity associated with spinal cord injury or disease affecting multiple sclerosis.


We hope that you now have a better understanding of ALS and how to prevent it. The best way to fight this disease is by staying informed and knowing what symptoms to look out for in yourself or your loved ones. The more people know about this condition, the better the chances of finding a cure.

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