What is Lou Gehrig’s disease?
Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ‘amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is named after the American baseball player who was diagnosed with this disease. It is a neurological disease and affects the functioning of the nervous system. This disease results in the steady death of the nerve cells in the muscles which leads to progressive disability.
This disease causes the nerve cells to slowly break down and get destroyed eventually. It is also called as the ‘motor neuron disease’ by some. Although the exact cause has not been identified for this disease the genetics are suspected to play a role in inheriting the disease.
This disease usually begins with a twitching in the muscles and weakness in one arm or leg. It can also cause slow slurring speech. As the disease progresses it affects the patient’s ability to control the muscles that are required for everyday activities such as walking, talking, etc.
If this disease is left untreated the complications may also result in the death of the patient.
What are the signs and symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease?
These are the signs and symptoms that are initially seen when the patient is affected by Lou Gehrig’s disease:
- Difficulty to walk, trip or performing everyday activities
- Weakness in ankles, feet or legs
- Weakness/clumsiness in hands
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Slurred speech
- Twitching/muscle cramps in tongue, arms and shoulders
- Inability to maintain a correct posture
The disease is mostly seen beginning in the hands or feet and eventually spreads to other parts of the body. As the disease progresses the muscles tend to become weaker and results in several difficulties, such as trouble in swallowing, speaking and even breathing.
What are the causes of Lou Gehrig’s disease?
Lou Gehrig’s disease causes the eventual destruction of the nerve cells in the body which are responsible for controlling the movements of the muscles. This disease starts with barely noticeable signs and eventually spreads to weaken the muscles and cause a large variety of complications due to it.
This disease has been found to be inherited in more than 5-10% of all cases while the cause for the remaining cases have not been identified as yet.
These are several risk factors that are suspected to result in Lou Gehrig’s disease:
- Genetic mutation – Several gene mutations can result in inheriting Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Chemical imbalance – People affected by this disease have been found to have higher than normal levels of ‘glutamate’ in the blood. This chemical is responsible for stimulating the brain and is found surrounding the nerve cells in the spinal fluid. Excess level of glutamate in the body is not ideal for certain nerve cells.
- Malfunctioning immune response – In certain cases the patient’s own immune system tends to work against the normal cells and also causes the death of nerve cells of the muscles.
- Age – This disease is most commonly seen in people above the age of 40 years.
- Sex – Men are more likely to develop this disease when they are older than 65 years of age.
What are the complications caused by Lou Gehrig’s disease?
These are the common complications that arise as the Lou Gehrig’s disease is seen progressing in a person:
- Breathing problems – The progress of the disease paralyzes the muscles in the chest that are important for the breathing process.
- Speech difficulties – Speech trouble is seen initially as mild slurring of words which worsens as the disease progresses and can lead to total loss of coherent speech due to lack of muscular response in the tongue.
- Eating problems – As the progressing disease affects the person’s throat muscles the ability to swallow gets affected. This can lead to malnutrition as the patient is unable to eat normally.
- Dementia – As the disease advances it can lead to problems with the memory and decision-making skills.
How is Lou Gehrig’s disease diagnosed?
AS this disease initially shows signs similar to other neurological disorders early detection of it becomes quite difficult. These are the test done to confirm the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) if it is suspected:
- EMG (electromyogram) – This diagnostic technique uses a thin and long needle electrode to be inserted into the skin in various muscles. This helps to measure the individual electrical activity in the specific muscle group at rest and contracted positions.
- Nerve condition study – This test helps to measure the nerve’s ability to send electrical impulses to the muscles in the various parts of the body. This helps to determine if there is nerve damage or the condition is a muscular disorder.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test – This technique uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce clear image of the brain and the spinal cord. This test helps to determine the presence of spinal cord tumors, herniated inter-vertebral discs in the neck or other similar conditions which may be causing the symptoms.
- Blood/Urine test – Samples of blood and the urine can help to determine other suspected causes for the disease.
How is Lou Gehrig’s disease treated?
As the nerve damage and muscular atrophy caused by the Lou Gehrig’s disease cannot be corrected the treatment for this disease mainly aims to decrease the symptoms of this disease as well as slow down its progress. This helps to lead a more normal life and perform various everyday activities.
These are the common treatment methods used to control and slow the progress of the Lou Gehrig’s disease:
There are a few medical drugs that can help to slow the progress of this disease in most people. It helps to lower the excess levels of glutamate in the body. Other medications used in the treatment of this disease include drugs to control the other complications such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Excess salivating
- Sleeping difficulties
- Hysteria (uncontrolled laughter or crying)
There are various physical therapies that are required to control the various complications, such as:
- Breathing exercises – As the chest muscles suffer deterioration it leads to difficulty in breathing normally. certain devices are used to regulate the breathing in such patients.
- Physiotherapy – A physiotherapist can help in treating pain, walking difficulty and using of various bracing devices and equipments that might be needed for the recovery. Low-impact exercises are useful in improving cardio fitness, muscular strength as well as the range of motion.
- Occupational therapy – This therapy can help to compensate for the weakness in the arms and hands which leads to inability to use them. Adaptive devices are used in this for restoring function in the affected limbs.
- Speech therapy – As the disease affects the muscles that are responsible for the ability to speak a speech therapist can help to choose and adapt to alternate methods of communication.
Although, the Lou Gehrig’s disease in not curable there are many treatment methods that help to correct the complications seen due to this disease.
Why choose IndianMedTrip for treatment of Lou Gehrig’s disease in India?
India is known for the largest healthcare network in the world. This network is made of the most advanced and sophisticated multi-specialty tertiary care hospitals and clinics that are spread over all major Indian cities. IndianMedTrip offers every patient with the best and most effective treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease at the most affordable price.