ALS, fully termed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a very very serious condition. The person afflicted with this disease develops many different physical problems.
Early on, a person with ALS will show symptoms such as these:
1. Muscles are not flexible, and instead very stiff
2. Limb weaknesses
3. Speech patterns like those of a stroke which is slurred and difficult to understand
4. A difficult time with swallowing food
This is typical for the beginning of ALS. But as time moves on, symptoms become more progressive due to the loss of tissues in muscles that control walking, swallowing and speech.
Where this devastating disease attacks first depends upon which part of the body’s muscles are attacked first. Sometimes it pops up in one of the legs first, or arm. Whichever area is affected first, the person is liable to notice that they have trouble either walking for long or holding on to things with the arms. Sometimes, the speech is first to begin a steady decline to the point where the person cannot make themselves understood at all.
The advancement of this disease is usually rapid once it begins in a certain area. Eventually, the person will go on to have body symptoms which are:
1. Cannot swallow at all
2. Unable to move much requring a wheelchair to get around
3. Ability to talk is very little.
There is a new drug on the market called Riluzole. This drug, though it does not cure the condition, helps to give ALS persons a better quality of life than previously. The drugbasically aids in helping the damage to neurons in the brain helping to slow the progression of the troublesome symptoms. There are a few side effects to this drug, mostly in liver damage, so the person taking Riluzole will need blood tests to monitor the liver enzymes.
Physical therapy can help a person with ALS to feel stronger and helps the strength of muscles. A therapist can assign some gentle exercises for stretching to work the muscles and also exercises to relieve muscles spasms so common in ALS.
Most people with ALS are also placed on drugs for depression and pain control. Some antidepressants offer both pain control along with mood elevation.
Many times, an occupational therapist is of value to helping a person afflicted with ALS. An occupation therapist can give helpful advice to getting the needed equipment so that the person has mobility.
As speech comes progressive difficult to those with ALS, a speech therapist can teach those with this disease to use non-verbal communication. Computers now have many great types of communication devices that help those with speech impairments and disabilites to communicate with people around them in the home setting.
In treating the person as far as their eating, and progression of the disease, liquid diets are usually recommended or easy to swallow foods so long as the person still has some ability to swallow a little bit. When that ability to swallow anything at all goes away, a feeding tube is inserted in order to provide proper nourishment.
Breathing is another unpleasant aspect of ALS. As the disease moves forward with the affected person, breathing gradually becomes a little harder day by day even. Respirators are often recommended, as they do help the person to breathe easier. This does not keep the disease from making a steady progression however, and at this stage of the game, hospice is often recommended.