You’ve likely seen or participated in the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates posting their challenges on social media, but how much do you know about ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease? A neurodegenerative disease that weakens and atrophies muscles, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) symptoms often include difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and voice changes.
It’s a disease that hits home for one of our HealthTappers (read her story here). HealthTap’s Dr. Kwok adds, “While few cases may be due to a genetic defect, the cause is usually unknown.” What exactly is ALS? Our HealthTap doctors weigh in.
“In brief, it’s a neurologic disease. Amylotrophic lateral sclerosis – a neurologic disease that affects motor function, leads to muscle weakness and significant disability. Also known as Lou Gehrigs disease.” – Dr. Slade Sucheki
“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease of a misfolded protein (superoxide dismutase) causing death of the motor neuron cell body and therefore resultant weakness, muscle atrophy, flickering of muscle tissue, and eventual loss of mobility, with inability to breathe or swallow. It is difficult to treat, has no cure, but is rare.” – Dr. Bennet Machanic
“No. ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disorder. Only the motor neurons and muscles are affected. The sensory nerves remain intact, so the patient can feel pain, but the disease itself does not cause pain.” – Dr. Steven Bowers
“Yes. Als, can cause moodswings, memory loss, and difficulty deciding.” – Dr. John Moseri
“No. ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, results from an attack on the spinal cord motor cells. This can be hereditary, but is not caused by a bacteria or virus one can catch.” – Dr. Kevin Teal
“90% of cases are sporadic, without clearcut genetics, and this is not known to be infectious. Of the 10% familial cases, 25% of these have a mutation in the gene encoding copper/zinc superoxide dismutase.” Dr. Bennett Machanic
“The main symptoms of ALS are weakness. The weakness often starts with one hand and then may progress to the other. The legs will often become weak as well. The muscles begin to get thinner. This is called atrophy. There may also be exaggerated reflexes and stiffness in the muscles called spasticity. The muscles that help us speak and swallow and breath can also be weakened.” – Dr. Jay Rosenfeld
“Symptoms usually develop after age 50.” – Dr. Lucia Zamorano
“Although there is a lot of research attempting to find a cure or opportunity to better manage this dreaded condition, at present there is no known cure. The course of progression is variable depending on the individual and there are some new pharmaceuticals that have not been introduced to the market yet that are under investigation.” – Dr. Keith Rafal
“A number of established agents have recently been investigated for their potential as neuroprotective agents, including antibiotics and minocycline. Progress has also been made in exploiting growth factors for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, partly due to advances in developing effective delivery systems to the central nervous system but overall out looks so far is not great yet.” – Dr. Atif Malik
Do you have another question about ALS? Ask our doctors now.