Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative neurological disorder that damages nerve cells and causes impairment.
It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Motor neurones, the nerve cells that regulate voluntary movements, are particularly vulnerable to the disease, which causes them to atrophy and die. Lower motor neurones convey messages from the spinal cord to the muscles. In contrast, upper motor neurones send messages from the brain to the spinal cord.
The brain can no longer move muscles or govern muscular movement due to the absence of these nerve cells. As a result, the muscles shrink and become weaker. Patients with ALS lose their ability to walk upstairs, reach for things, and dress themselves within a few years of being diagnosed. A variety of factors causes ALS. The specific aetiology of ALS is unknown; however, it is thought that genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors may have a role.
ALS symptoms include tight muscles, muscle twitching, and a gradual decrease of muscle strength in the early stages of the disease. Muscles gradually become paralyzed as the disease develops, and patients have trouble speaking, swallowing, and finally breathing. ALS first affects the muscles in the arms, hands, and legs in roughly two-thirds of patients, causing tripping, stumbling, or clumsiness when running.
Foot drop and a "slapping" gait are additional symptoms of ALS. The term "foot drop" refers to the difficulty in elevating the front half of the foot. Reduced finger dexterity, cramping, stiffness, and weakness or wasting of intrinsic hand muscles, as well as a wrist drop that interferes with task performance, are all early indications.
Slurred voice, hoarseness, and reduced speech volume are other common ALS symptoms. Aspiration of food, which occurs when food is breathed into the airways, and choking during a meal are two other alarming early symptoms. Emotional and cognitive issues can occur in people with ALS, including involuntary and inappropriate laughter or sobbing, depression, decreased critical thinking, and odd social behaviours.
Muscle atrophy (shrinkage) becomes increasingly noticeable as the condition advances, and muscle cramps become more common. Patients' voices often fluctuate as the disease progresses, and speech may be lost eventually. Drooling and swallowing issues are common in patients.