What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? Lou Gehrig disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disorder that attacks the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Motor nerves function to deliver electrical nerve signals that control muscle movement. Damage to the motor nerves results in the body losing the ability to move the muscles, so the muscles become paralyzed and then shrink. The name Lou Gehrig’s disease was taken from the name of a famous American baseball athlete who developed the disease around the 1930s.
The motor nerve is divided into two parts, the upper motor neuron (UMN), which sends messages from the brain to the spinal cord, and the lower motor neuron (LMN) that sends messages from the spinal cord to the muscles .
In Lou Gehrig’s disease, hardening and shrinking of the motor nerves. As a result, neural electrical signals could not be delivered and the muscles do not get orders to move, resulting in paralysis, difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or even breathing.
There are two types of ALS, namely:
- Sporadic ALS. This condition is experienced by 95 percent of people with Lou Gehrig’s disease for no apparent reason.
- Familial ALS. This condition occurs because of the influence of genetic abnormalities that are inherited. Parents who suffer from ALS, have the potential to reduce the disease to their children.
Symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Early signs of Lou Gehrig’s disease usually begin from the hands, then to the legs, and spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms consist of:
- Hands feel weak and often drop the goods.
- Weak on the legs and feet, so often fall or trip.
- Difficult to hold your head.
- Difficult to maintain body position.
- Speech is not clear.
- Difficult to swallow.
- Difficult to walk and perform normal daily activities.
- The Cause of Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Not yet known exactly what causes damage to nerve cells in this disease. Approximately 10 percent of cases occur, found a genetic mutation that causes the formation of a protein that is damaging nerve cells.
There are several other factors that are also suspected to be the cause of cell damage in ALS, including:
- Excess glutamate. Glutamate is a chemical that acts as a sender of messages to or from the brain and nerves. However, if there is accumulation of glutamate around the nerve cells can cause damage to the nerves.
- Immune system disorders. Under certain conditions, one’s immune system actually attacks healthy cells in the body and causes damage to nerve cells.
- Disorders of the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the places of energy formation in cells. Disorders in this energy determination can damage nerve cells, as well as accelerate the deterioration of diseases that may be caused by other factors.
- Oxidative stress. Excessive free radical levels will cause oxidative stress, and cause damage to various body cells.
Risk Factors Lou Gehrig’s Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
There are several factors that can increase the risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease, including:
- Age. The results of the study found that a person aged 40-60 years was at greater risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Gender. A 65-year-old man is at risk for Lou Gehrig’s disease compared to women of the same age.
- Heredity. People with Lou Gehrig’s disease have the potential to transmit the disease to their children by a percentage of 50 percent.
- Genetics. The study found a person with a certain gene type had the potential to develop Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Smoke. Cigarettes can trigger the emergence of Lou Gehrig’s disease, especially in menopausal women.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals. Continuous exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to Lou Gehrig’s disease
Diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Lou Gehrig’s disease is difficult to diagnose early because signs and symptoms are similar to other neurological disorders. To establish the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, the following tests can be performed:
- Electromyogram (EMG), to evaluate the electrical activity of the muscles.
- MRI examination, to see which nervous system is problematic.
- Examination of blood and urine, to determine the health condition of patients in general, the presence of genetic disorders, or other factors.
- Examination of nerve conducting velocity, to assess the function of the motor nerves of the body.
- Muscle biopsy sample, to see muscle abnormalities.
- Spinal tap, to examine brain fluid samples taken through the spine.
Treatment of Lou Gehrig’s Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Treatment is done to inhibit disease progression and prevent complications. Drugs can also be given to relieve symptoms, such as pain, cramps, muscle spasms, constipation, salivation and excessive sputum, sleep disorders, and depression.
In addition, doctors will advise patients to undergo a series of therapies consisting of:
- Respiratory therapy. If weakness has occurred in the respiratory muscles, then the breathing will be assisted by the machine, especially at bedtime.
- Physical therapy. To maintain body fitness, heart health, and increase muscle strength.
- Speech therapy. Helping the patient to be able to communicate well (especially verbal) by teaching certain techniques.
- Occupational therapy. Helping the patient perform daily routine activities with the help of special tools and techniques, to maintain the functional ability and independence of patients.
Other additional handling that can be given is the form of regulation of nutrient intake. It is recommended that the patient be given food in a form that is easy to swallow, and contains adequate nutrition.
Complications of Lou Gehrig’s Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Difficulty speaking. People with Lou Gehrig’s disease often have difficulty speaking. The spoken words are vague and incomprehensible.
- Respiratory disorders. Long-term Lou Gehrig’s disease can paralyze the respiratory muscles.
- Eating disorders. Muscle damage used to chew and swallow food causes malanutrisi and dehydration in people with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Dementia. Many people with Lou Gehrig’s disease have dementia, with symptoms of memory decline and decision-making ability.