What Is ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive, neurological (nervous system) disease that affects nerve cells (motor neurons) in the brain and spinal cord.
ALS attacks motor neurons that control muscles of the body, leading to progressive weakness and disability. When these cells die, voluntary muscle control and movement becomes impaired.
As ALS progresses, it will eventually affect muscles that control breathing, as well as chewing and swallowing food.
How Does ALS Affect the Body?
Over time, the brain loses its ability to initiate and control certain muscle movements, resulting in progressive weakness and paralysis. People living with ALS may eventually need assistance with speaking, eating, and breathing on their own.
ALS Can Affect Anyone
What Causes ALS?
- Familial ALS
- Affects: 5% to 10% of people with ALS
- Cause: Hereditary
- Sporadic ALS
- Affects: 90% to 95% of people with ALS
- Cause: Unknown
ALS Symptoms Affect Everyone Differently
Knowing which parts of your body are affected by ALS can help you and your healthcare provider(s) better understand how ALS will impact you moving forward.
The number and degree of symptoms typically increase as the disease gets worse. At later stages of the disease, people may become incapable of movement and rely on caregivers for complete assistance.
Their sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell
Control of eye muscles, bladder, and bowel functions
Some people with ALS retain an alert mind but it is not uncommon for others to experience cognitive or behavioural changes.
Symptoms of impaired cognitive ability and behavioural changes include:
- A change in personality and acting uncharacteristically
- Conducting in inappropriate, embarrassing or childlike mannerisms
- Making inappropriate comments, also referred to as having a lack of “filter”
- Difficulty making decisions or making decisions that is inconsistent with past views or behaviours
- Impairments in thinking, reasoning or problem solving
- Decreased attention to hygiene, such as bathing, grooming, dressing and using the washroom
- Inability to follow instruction
- Changes in language processing such as the use of improper grammar, difficulty spelling or speaking that becomes nonsensical
How to Track ALS
Several clinical measures have been developed to monitor your ALS. Some of these include
The most well-known questionnaire is called the ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R).