According to the ALS Association, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. While ALS can occur in adults in their 20’s and 30’s, most are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70 with the average age being 55 years old at the time of diagnosis.
There are two types of ALS, Sporadic and familial. The most common form is Sporadic and is said to account for 90 -95 percent of all diagnosed cases. Familial ASL affects between 5-10 percent of all diagnoses in the U.S. and is an inherited disease. Research shows patients diagnosed with Familial ALS have a 50 percent chance of passing this disease to each of their children.
Symptoms of ALS can be very different in each patient and can include trouble holding and or lifting objects. They may also experience change is vocal pitch when talking. The most common early symptom is progressive muscle weakness causing tripping, dropping things, unusual fatigue in arms and legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps, and twitching. There can even be uncontrollable bouts of laughing or crying.
As a Caregiver for an ALS patient know that it will be a difficult journey especially if it’s a loved one. It is an enormous undertaking both physically and emotionally. ALS patients will require assistance with housekeeping, grocery shopping, personal hygiene, mobility at home as well as transportation to doctor’s appointments and enjoying a break from being home-bound.
For more information on ALS visit the ALS Association at alsa.org