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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Research Paper Example

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a progressive brain disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) that control voluntary muscles” (ASHA, 2011). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a brain disease that is fatal in nature…
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Download file to see previous pages... Located in the brain and the spinal cord, motor neurons are the links of vital communication between the voluntary muscles and nervous system. Upper motor neurons which are located in the brain send messages to the lower motor neurons that are located in the spinal cord. The receiving motor neurons in turn, generate instructions for the voluntary muscles in the body. ALS occurs with the simultaneous death and degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons, which essentially distorts the passage of messages to the voluntary muscles. Lack of function first causes the muscles to weaken and eventually, the muscles waste away. The brain ultimately loses its capability to control the voluntary movement of muscles in the body. The weakness caused by ALS is accompanied by a whole range of disabilities. Loss of strength of the chest and diaphragm muscles reduces the ventilatory support and thus, saps the patient’s ability to breathe. In a vast majority of cases, it only takes the patients between 3 and 5 years to die because of respiratory failure after the symptoms have started to show up, while only 10 per cent of the patients of ALS live for 10 or more years after the onset of symptoms. Although it may be possible to prolong the survival of patient using tracheostomy intermittent positive-pressure (TPPV) for about 5 years on average, “many clinicians have ethical reservations about recommending it for ALS patients and, at least in some states, < 10% of ALS patients are offered or consent to tracheotomy” (Bach, 2002). In the past, it was believed that ALS did not have any effect upon an individual’s intelligence, though as more and more research is being conducted, it is being increasingly believed that ALS causes changes in cognitive functions including memory loss and depression. Nevertheless, the patient’s ability to hear, see, taste, and smell are not altered by ALS. The patients are able to recognize it when they are touched though their own ability to move the hands may be lost. Patient’s bladder and bowel functions remain efficient but the patient does require help to and from the bathroom in the late stages of disease. Up to 5000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS on a yearly basis. ALS affects people of all ethnicities and races all over the world and is thus, a very common neuromuscular disease. People suffering from ALS are mostly aged from 40 to 60 years, though people younger and older than this are also susceptible to acquiring the disease (NIH, 2011). ALS is more common among men as compared to women. ALS occurs randomly in as many as 95 per cent of the cases and the risk factors in them are minimal. It is not an inherited disease. It is not necessary for the patients to have a family history for ALS. Accordingly, diagnosis of ALS in a parent is generally no reason for the child to have this disease as well. Cases in which ALS is inherited make no more than 5 to 10 per cent of the total. Only the familial type of ALS passes the disease through inheritance when one of the parents carries the gene with ALS. 20 per cent of all familial cases of ALS occur because of a particular defect in the genes which causes mutation of the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD 1) enzyme (LEF, 2011). 80 per cent of the familial ALS cases occur because of unidentified genetic reasons. “Perhaps the most important disorder in the differential diagnosis is multifocal motor neuropathy, which is dominated by lower motor neuron signs and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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