What Causes ALS Disease Symptoms

ALS> General

1. The most important things in a nutshell

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable disease, so the burden on those affected is correspondingly high. In order to cope with the disease, it is important to find out about the disease. The relatives should be included from the start.

2. Clinical picture

ALS is a rapidly progressing, degenerative disease of the central nervous system in which nerve cells that are responsible for moving muscles gradually die off. ALS damages the nerve cells of the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord and leads to complete paralysis of the body. The cause of the disease has not yet been clarified. In Germany around 6000-8000 people are currently suffering from ALS. Most people get the disease between the ages of 50 and 70; younger adults are rarely affected. Men get sick more often than women.

2.1. Course of disease

The course of ALS is different for each patient, and prognoses about the individual complaints and the time course of the disease are not possible. ALS is incurable and life expectancy is reduced. On average, ALS patients die 3 years after diagnosis, and some live with the disease for up to 10 years. In most cases, the cause of death is the weakening or paralysis of the respiratory muscles. A prominent example of the disease is the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

2.1.1. to shape

It will 3 forms distinguished from ALS:

  • Family form: The disease is passed on through genes.
  • Sporadic form: The cause of the disease is unknown.
  • Endemic form: ALS occurs much more frequently in some regions, although the cause is unclear.

3. Symptoms

3.1. Motor skills

The disease usually begins with muscle weakness and atrophy, mostly in the hands or forearms, and sometimes in the legs. Muscle twitching may occur that is barely noticeable at first. In addition, painful muscle cramps can be part of the initial symptoms of ALS. The consequences of these motor symptoms are powerlessness, weakness and, above all, limitation of mobility and mobility. Everyday tasks that are carried out with arms and hands are more difficult. Eating, grooming, writing and carrying things are only possible to a limited extent. If the legs are affected, patients often have to rely on aids such as a walker or wheelchair in order to get around (see ALS> Aids for more information).

3.2. Chewing, swallowing, speaking

In a few patients the disease begins with disorders of the tongue, throat and palate muscles, in the others this occurs as the disease progresses. These symptoms lead to problems with chewing, swallowing and especially with articulation. Those affected and their relatives find it particularly stressful when the ability to express oneself verbally disappears.

4. Disease progression

As the disease progresses, all muscle groups, including the respiratory muscles, are affected. 5% of those affected also develop dementia. In the majority of patients, however, full perception is retained; there is no impairment of thinking, intelligence or feeling.

There is currently no drug therapy that cures ALS, but attempts are made to slow its progression. This is achieved on the one hand by medication, on the other hand by strengthening the muscle functions that are still preserved. More information under ALS> Treatment.

5. Dealing with the disease

The diagnosis of ALS comes as a shock to most people because it is an incurable disease. In order to cope with the disease, it is important to find out about the disease. The next of kin should be included from the start.

The aim should be to maintain the highest possible quality of life and independence in the remaining time. All aids that are available for the restrictions caused by muscle loss should be used. If a patient has articulation disorders, the use of communication aids is recommended.

Physical exercise is still important, but the load should be adapted to the individual constitution. Since exhaustion is usually an accompanying symptom right from the start, ALS patients should know their limits and learn to deal with them. Take breaks more often, listen to your body and use aids in good time, e.g. walking aids.

6. End of life

It is difficult to deal with one's own death, on the other hand this can be very helpful for the person concerned.

  • Patient care
    The possibilities of patient care should be exhausted. In an advance directive, which is ideally drawn up in cooperation with the attending physician and the relatives, it can be specified how the patient would like his medical treatment at the end of his life. This requires an honest examination of your own ideas about the end of life and an open and comprehensive consultation on the part of the treating doctor.
  • Last phase of life
    Numerous information and links on care, hospices and how to deal with the difficult situation can be found under palliative care.

7. Related links

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

ALS> work

ALS> treatment

ALS> nutrition

ALS> family

ALS> Financial Aid

ALS> Aids

ALS> mobility

ALS> care

ALS> pension

ALS> severe disability

ALS> vacation