What are the Most Common Symptoms and Complications of ALS?

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive and fatal disease of the nervous system. It is also classified as a motor neuron disease, and it affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. These nerve cells degenerate progressively, causing partial and then total loss of muscle control. Because of how it affects the body, ALS is one of the most devastating nervous system diseases.

What are The Symptoms of ALS?

The signs and symptoms and ALS are very different for each person because the neurons are affected in different ways and different orders. However, most people experience muscle weakness and twitching, which get progressively worse.

There may also be weakness in one limb that gets worse over time. For most people, this takes a few weeks. Weakness then develops in another limb a few weeks or months later.

Some people experience trouble swallowing or slurred speech first before noticing other symptoms. Other ALS symptoms include:

  • Trouble completing daily tasks and chores due to muscle twitch, weakness, and cramping
  • Loss of motor control in the hands
  • Falling and tripping
  • Persistent lethargy and fatigue
  • Arm and Leg impairment
  • Uncontrollable crying or laughing for prolonged periods

All of these symptoms show up before the more serious ones do. These include paralysis and breathing issues.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis does not affect cognitive abilities or the senses, hearing, seeing, etc., and is not contagious. Pain is uncommon in either the early or late stages of ALS.

Cause of ALS

Experts do not know what causes this disease, but there are a few cases of genetic inheritance. The latter is a result of what is known as familial ALS where only a few people are affected.

ALS Complications

The complications caused by ALS mainly stem from the weakening of the different muscles in the body. We examine the most common complications below.

Eating Problems

Damage to the muscles that help with chewing and swallowing can present serious issues for those with ALS. To prevent dehydration and malnutrition, many nutritionists recommend food and drink thickeners. The food and drink thickeners from the creator of Simply Thick, for example, can help make food easier to swallow.

In cases where there is serious risk of malnutrition or aspiration, a specialist might recommend a feeding tube.

Breathing Problems

ALS can also weaken and paralyze the muscles we use for breathing, leading to breathing problems. This is such a serious issue that it is the main cause of death in those with ALS. A doctor can recommend a device to help you breathe while you sleep, or a tracheostomy to help with breathing.

Speaking Challenges

Most people who have ALS also have speech problems. It starts as simple slurs and then continues to a total inability to communicate. These people end up requiring special tools to communicate.

Conclusion

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a serious, progressive disease. It can cause serious complications, and this is why a proper diagnosis is required as soon as one notices its symptoms. Although it does not have a cure, a doctor can put together a plan for symptom management to make patients comfortable.