Caregiving Corner: All About ALS
A Brief Overview:
ALS, (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a neurodegenerative disease. It affects 5,600 Americans a year as it breaks down the brain and spinal cord nerve cells. As a result, the body’s muscles become weak and cause limited mobility.
ALS is not contagious, so you don’t have to worry about getting it from someone else. However, anyone can develop this disease. It is not exclusive to anyone nor any ethnic or social class of people. Although, current research shows that the majority of ALS patients have been linked as:
- 63% male
- 93% caucasian
- Between the average ages of 40-70
- Military Veterans (possible toxic exposure in service)
Early symptoms of ALS
Early symptoms of ALS include muscle stiffening, muscle cramps, and twitches beginning in the arm and hand. These symptoms make normal tasks and daily activities a struggle for ALS patients. Walking and gripping a utensil are a few activities that may become challenging. During the early years of living with ALS, it may be helpful to own a walker or a wheelchair to transport safely.
One major problem with ALS is that muscle stiffening causes severe weakness. The weakness makes it difficult for an ALS patient to do things on their own. Furthermore, the affected person will experience slurred speech, irregular voice patterns, difficulty breathing, swallowing, constant tripping, stumbling and eventually paralysis.
Although there is no known cure for ALS, there are treatment options approved by the FDA. These treatment options are available to slow the progression of the disease. These drugs are called Riluzole and Edaravone also known as “Radicava.”
Riluzole is the very first drug to be approved by the FDA.
The drug blocks excess glutamate, a neurotransmitter our cells need to talk with one another for a short time. ALS develops when there is excess glutamate produced by a prolonged “communication”.
Edaravone is the most recent drug officially approved by the FDA as of 2017 and is administered through an IV.
How to get started
After diagnosis, your doctor may put you in touch with an ALS support center or give you helpful advice on how to get started.
If you are seeking additional resources, find an ALS support center in your area or online for additional help. It may be helpful to conduct some research to get as much information as possible about the disease.
Take each day as it comes. Experts suggest that a positive state of mind is helpful to overall improvement for a healthy cognitive mindset. As a result, the body’s resistance to disease is increased by a positive mindset. Always remain in a positive attitude for the benefit of yourself! Remind your loved one in the most caring way and inspire them to move forward!
Overall, the main idea is to have a plan. If it doesn’t work, adjust it because that’s okay too. ALS will move at a different rate for everyone. Meaning, the disease may move faster for some patients and slower for others.