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Understanding Your ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) Diagnosis

What to Do if Diagnosed with ALS?

Receiving a diagnosis of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, can be frightening. That's why it is important to understand what this disease is and what to do with a professional diagnosis.

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What is ALS?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that affects nerve cells in both the spinal cord and the brain. These nerve cells begin to deteriorate and finally die. As this happens, your brain loses its ability to initiate and control muscle movement. As this process starts and continues, a person can lose their ability to eat, move, speak, and even breathe.

Currently, there are up to fifteen new cases of ALS every day, and those that are most likely to be identified with the disease are between the ages of forty and seventy with an average age of fifty-five.

There are two types of ALS. Familial ALS makes up to 10% of all cases and is inherited. Sporadic ALS makes up the remainder of the 90% of cases, and this type of ALS can affect anyone.

Typical symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty grasping items
  • Lifting items such as a coffee cup
  • Change in vocal pitch when speaking
  • Diffculty swalling
  • Loss of control over hands, arms, legs, or feet

The symptoms can vary by person, but all ALS patients will experience progressive weakness and paralysis over time. Life expectancy differs greatly between patients, but the average is between three and five years although some ALS suffers live up to ten years after diagnosis.

What now?

For most ALS patients, their families provide in home care for them. In fact, up to 80% of home care services are provided by family members. This, over time, can take a huge toll both emotionally and physically on family caretakers. An option that may be helpful to ALS patients and their families is to turn to professional in home caregivers for help.

Professional caregivers can assist with the daily tasks that ALS patients find difficult as well as ensuring medications are taken properly. The right help can improve quality of life for the patient and help increase the change of a longer and healthier life overall.

For those interested in more information, visit www.alsa.org.


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Derek Jones

Derek enjoys spending time with family running road races, has completed 6-half marathons, mountain biking, and anything to do with baseball or the outdoors.