Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a rare progressive degenerative disease that affects motor neurons. We do not know its origin, but it leads to a deterioration of the neurons that transfer orders of movement: motor neurons. These neurons are affected in the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, but also in peripheral nerves. Typically, it affects adults between the ages of 40 and 70. This leads inexorably to the death of the nerve cells that allow the movement of voluntary muscles, and thus paralysis. Its course is variable from one subject to another, but typically, death occurs within a few years. At present, there is no treatment that can stop the progression of Lou Gehrig's disease, or to cure it.
A patient with Lou Gehrig's disease may have different symptoms of gradual evolution, often starting with the upper limbs and continuing progressively with:
- muscle cramps;
- difficulties in moving, progressing to paralysis;
- a decrease in muscle mass, known as atrophy;
- slowness of movement;
- involuntary contractions of some muscles in the form of twitching;
- disorders with swallowing food;
- speech disorders ...
Additional tests, such as electromyography, which allows the study of the spontaneous activity of muscles and their response to stimulation, as well as a muscle biopsy allow for the diagnosis to be confirmed. They are usually complemented by brain imaging and blood tests.
Several lines of treatment are needed to treat Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease is currently not curable, but the treatment of symptoms is essential to give the individual a quality of life that is most optimal. One main drug is used and has proven to be somewhat effective on the disease: it is riluzole. Studies are underway to find other therapeutic techniques. Parallel to drug therapy and physical therapy, medico-social care with the implementation of technical assistance and psychological support are essential.
Original article published by
. Translated by Jeff