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ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrigs Disease) - Neurology

Overview
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous American baseball player stricken with the disease in the early 1940s. The disease causes progressive damage to the neuromuscular system, causing muscle weakness, limited mobility, eventual disability and death. As the disease progresses, individuals may be unable to control muscular movement, the ability to eat and speak, and the body experiences difficulty breathing. Doctors don't completely understand what causes the disease process, which often shows first through signs and symptoms such as muscle twitches, slurred speech, or weakness in an extremity.

Research performed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke believe that the disease is caused by mutations in genes that produce SOD1 enzymes, anti-oxidants that protect the body from cellular and tissue damage caused by free radicals. Doctors believe that free radical accumulation may cause motor neuron degeneration and decreased motor function.

Doctors also believe that a chemical messenger called glutamate may be responsible for the neurodegenerative disorder. High levels of glutamate in spinal fluid may damage neurons, causing many of the debilitating symptoms of ALS.

Common Treatments for ALS
Today, treatments for ALS are focused on relieving symptoms and discomfort for those diagnosed with the disease. To date, there is no known cure for the disease process or any method that reverses damage caused to the muscles and nerves by ALS. Some treatments may slow progression of symptoms, as well as help individuals maintain a higher level of comfort and greater independence.

The most common treatment protocols for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis include:

  • Medications - medications are designed to help slow the progression of the disease. Most medications are created to reduce glutamate levels in the brain, a chemical messenger. Medications may also be prescribed to help relieve some common symptoms of the disease process including pain, muscle cramps, excess production of saliva or phlegm, as well as to treat depression. Some of the most common medications prescribed for treatment of ALS include:

    * Baclofen
    * Zanaflex
    * Rilutek - this is the only drug that's been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of ALS
    * NSAIDs - nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs including naproxen or ibuprofen
    * Tramadol - for pain relief

  • Therapy - physical and occupational therapy may help individuals maintain muscle strength and coordination as well as range of motion. An occupational therapist helps individuals learn how to use assistive devices such as wheelchairs or walkers. Such individuals help those diagnosed with ALS to adapt their homes and environments to increase mobility and independence. Speech therapists may also help maintain speaking, chewing and mouth strength and coordination.
  • Stem cell therapy - tests and research is still underway in the use of embryonic and adult stem cell therapies and treatments for ALS. Research has determined that embryonic stem cells are capable of developing into dopaminergic neurons, vital for normal neuromuscular function. However, to date, very few clinical trials involving bone marrow or cord blood stem cell therapies in individuals diagnosed with ALS have been published.

How Much do ALS Treatments Cost?
The cost of treatments for ALS depends on the approach used, as well as the type of medication.  In the United States, a month's supply of Rilutek may cost an average of $600 to $700 a month.  The cost for physical therapy depends on the facility offering such services as well as the amount of time spent on therapeutic service. Neuromuscular re-education therapeutic services may range between $100 to $400 per hour.

Patients seeking medications or therapeutic services for the treatment of ALS should take the time to research various medical facility destinations and services offered to determine efficacy of treatments, whether stem-cell based, or alternative medicine-based, such as through Ayurvedic or other natural approaches. Discuss such treatments with a primary care provider for more detailed information regarding benefits of pursuing such avenues of help for dealing with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Neurology - Neurology, PlacidWay, Neurology is the study of the nervous system, and involves the central and peripheral nervous system, and the diagnosis and treatment of a number of neurological or nerve disease processes and injuries.