Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

There may be no cure for ALS today, but INTEGRIS Health physicians, neuroscientists and therapists will do all they can to slow the disease, ease the symptoms and help you live a happy, active life.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

An Indiscriminate Disease

It can strike almost anyone from any age group, any ethnic group and any gender, and in nearly all of the cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS), the cause is unknown. But that doesn’t mean hope is lost.

ALS is a disease that causes progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in your spinal cord and brain that control voluntary muscles – the muscles you consciously operate. It’s characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to muscles decreasing in size, but it doesn’t affect mental functioning or the senses.

Let’s Work Together

There may not be a cure for ALS today, but INTEGRIS Health physicians, neuroscientists and therapists will do all they can to forestall the disease, alleviate the symptoms and help you learn to live a happy, active life with this challenging disease.

Understanding Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

The following are the most common symptoms for ALS. However, you may experience symptoms differently – and these symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems, so it’s always best to talk with your doctor. As ALS progresses, more and more symptoms are noticed. These are the most common symptoms:

  • Twitching and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet
  • Loss of motor control in the hands and arms
  • Impairment in the use of the arms and legs
  • Tripping and falling
  • Dropping things
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying
  • Slurred or thick speech
  • Trouble in projecting the voice

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Paralysis

There is no specific test to diagnose ALS. If your doctor thinks you might have it, exams and tests will be required to reach an accurate diagnosis. This begins with your physician asking questions about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease, and may continue with more in-depth tests:

  • Lab Tests: These include blood and urine studies and thyroid functioning tests.
  • Muscle or Nerve Biopsy: Your doctor removes a sample of tissue or cells from the body and examines it under a microscope.
  • Spinal Tap (also called Lumbar Puncture): Your doctor places a special needle into the lower back, into the area around the spinal cord. There he or she can measure the pressure in the spinal canal and brain. Your doctor will remove a small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and test it for an infection or other problems.
  • X-Ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This procedure  uses large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within your body.
  • Electrodiagnostic Tests: These may include electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction study (NCS), which evaluate and diagnose disorders of the muscles and motor neurons. Your doctor inserts electrodes into the muscle, or places them on the skin overlying a muscle or muscle group to record electrical activity and muscle responses.

Unfortunately, today there is no cure for ALS, so treatment focuses on managing and learning to cope with its symptoms. That can be its own challenge – for the patient, caregivers and medical team. But at INTEGRIS, we’ll be by your side throughout the process, and will make as many resources available to you for support and assistance. Your treatment plan will be tailored to you based on age, medical history, type and stage of ALS, and personal preferences. Options may include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Nutritional Therapy
  • Clinical Trials (when appropriate)

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