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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a condition affecting nerves that control voluntary movement of the muscles. It became well known after affecting the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig. ALS is most often progressive and can affect any voluntary muscles including the limbs, and muscles used for speaking, swallowing, eating, and breathing.

Signs and Symptoms

The condition may affect sufferers in the beginning very subtly and may be sometimes overlooked by the patient or a healthcare provider. Muscle “twitching” or fasciculations may be present. Eventually, muscle atrophy or a decrease in muscle bulk may be seen. This will be accompanied by muscle weakness.

Any part of the body that has skeletal muscle is affected. This may lead to difficulty speaking, swallowing, eating, and breathing.

Diagnosis

If one has any, some or all of the above symptoms they should contact their doctor who will likely refer them to a neurologist for further evaluation. A neurologist will complete a thorough examination and a detailed history. The patient may also have imaging and blood work performed for further evaluation. The doctor may also perform a nerve conduction study NCV / EMG test.

Management

ALS is a progressive disease. Research for breakthrough treatments is ongoing. While the goal of treatment is to extend life, relieving symptoms, facilitating comfort and maintaining quality of life are no less important.

Treatment commonly consists of a multidisciplinary approach including pharmacological therapy combined with other types of therapy such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, nutrition, and end of life care.

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana may alleviate the impact of ALS on people’s lives and is approved for use by NY state in patients with ALS by an authorized healthcare provider.

Resources

The ALS Association – http://www.alsa.org/

The ALS Hope Foundation – https://www.alshf.org/