Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that damages the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells. As it progresses, muscles weaken, leading to impaired mobility and motor skills.
It can make it hard to speak, eat/swallow, breathe, and hold or grasp items. May is ALS Awareness Month and a good time to learn some of the facts surrounding the disease. It’s also a great time to address the benefits of home care assistance with your dad.
It’s a Common Disease
ALS is a common disease. About 5,000 Americans each year are diagnosed. Studies find that military veterans are twice as likely to develop it. While the reasoning for this is unclear, it’s believed it might be the chemicals and environment military members are exposed to.
There Are Five Types of ALS
- Classical – Six out of ten patients have this form where the lower and upper nerve cells diminish.
- Primary Lateral – It’s the least common form where only the upper nerve cells deteriorate.
- Progressive Bulbar Palsy – Begins with loss of chewing, speech, and swallowing, and affects one out of four patients.
- Progressive Muscular Atrophy – The lower nerve cells diminish.
- Familial – It’s the only form of ALS where it runs in families, and less than 10% of cases are familial.
The Symptoms Vary
The symptoms vary from one person to the next. The most common symptoms include:
- Uncontrolled laughter or crying
- Tendency to trip or fall
- Slurred speech
- Muscle cramps and twitching
- Loss of use in the arms and hands
- Inability to project the voice
As several conditions and diseases share similar symptoms, ALS can be challenging to diagnose. Often, a spinal tap, x-rays, MRI, and EMG are used. Tests of the blood and thyroid are also ordered.
Most People Are Diagnosed After the Age of 60
ALS usually appears between the ages of 40 and 70, though there are children diagnosed with a form of it. It’s most common in people who are older than 60.
Half of ALS Patients Live No More Than Five Years
ALS used to be better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, so you may recognize that name. Once a person has ALS, the average life expectancy is less than five years.
Few Cases Are Tied to Family Histories
You might think ALS is a disease that runs in families, but it’s not. Nine out of ten patients do not have any cases of ALS in their family history.
There Is No Cure
There is no cure for ALS. The care plan usually entails dietary changes, working with a respiratory therapist, and medications. Your dad’s doctor may recommend he work with occupational, physical, and speech therapists, too.
As mobility and motor skills diminish, your dad will need more help with personal care, housework, meals, and ambulation. Home care assistance offers the help he needs. Talk to a specialist in home care assistance to learn more.