What type of disease is ALS?

ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – is a paralytic neuron disease, it is also the condition that most often affects motor neurons – the nerve cells in charge of voluntary movements. The disease causes the nerve cells – neurons, to degenerate or die, rendering them incapable of transmitting nerve impulses to muscles. The condition, eventually, progresses to paralysis and death. The disease, which usually starts around the age of 50 with earlier onset also possible, strikes suddenly otherwise healthy individuals.

Prof. Yaşar Kütükçü M.D. and Hale Alpsan Gökmen M.D. – specialists in neurology at Anadolu Medical Center – explain that the disease starts from the fine muscles of the arms and those affected visit doctors on account of weakness and numbness in the arms. Muscle twitching is a typical symptom.

“ALS is a disease that progresses over the years and as it affects nerve cells connected to different muscles, different symptoms may occur. Usually, within 3 to 4 years it spreads to the muscles in charge of swallowing and breathing and, as a result, respiratory support may become essential to maintain the normal breathing of patients.” specialists report.

Disease progression varies with individuals and specialists point out that in rare cases the process may last for 20 to 30 years. Initial symptoms are similar to those of a number of other diseases and that is why careful examinations are of crucial importance. When diagnosing the disease, the clinical and the EMG findings play a significant part. The most significant characteristic of the disease is that even at its late stage it may leave brain functioning and memory unaffected.

Specialists share that ALS typically occurs around the age of 40 to 50 with men being more often affected than women. “The cause of the disease is still unknown, but what is known is the role of mutation taking place in the genes that produce the Cu/Zn-SOD enzyme.” Specialists mention that there are certain medications to be applied in order to slow down disease progression but scientists worldwide are still in quest of better treatment options.

Prof. Kütükçü M.D. and Gökmen M.D. tell us that the major focus of treatment is to improve the quality of life of patients. “This process involves proper support of the vital functions such as swallowing and breathing, this is what we call supportive care. Supportive care is vital to improving the living comfort of patients; it includes pain management therapies, physical therapy to preserve muscle functions, etc.”

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