Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig's Disease
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive disease of the nervous system that attacks specialized nerve cells known as motor neurons, which extend from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body. As these nerve cells deteriorate, they lose the ability to control voluntary muscle movement. Symptoms of ALS can include:
- Slurring or hoarseness in speech
- Difficulty in swallowing or controlling saliva
- Difficulty in breathing
- Weakness or tiredness in the arms and legs
- Muscle twitches or cramps
- Muscle wasting
It's estimated that about 30,000 people in the United States have ALS. Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, although the disease can occur in younger people as well. ALS is more common in men than in women.
Slowing ALS Symptoms
At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, patients with ALS receive care within the Neuromuscular Program. Although there is no cure for ALS, the program provides state-of-the-science diagnostic services and access to advanced drug therapies that may slow the progress of the disease's symptoms.
Management is tailored to patients' specific needs, and may include referrals for physical, occupational or speech therapy, among others. Although no curative drug is available, a number of medications may help patients better deal with symptoms such as cramping and drooling. In addition, the program provides comprehensive supportive care to patients and caregivers, helping them to cope with the challenges that the disease presents.
Learn more about what experts know — and don't know — about the causes of ALS at HealthLink, available from the Medical College of Wisconsin website, mcw.edu.