We may wonder what causes ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. So far, no definitive cause has been detected. However, scientists consider several probable factors to be responsible for ALS.
The possible risk factors include exposure to neurotoxins or heavy metals, DNA defects, immune system and enzyme production,malfunctions, surgeries involving spinal cord where nerve fibres are disrupted, hereditary factor in Familial ALS (FALS), virus, prolonged exposure to dietary neurotoxin BMAA, exposure to pesticides used in soccer fields,military person have 60% higher probability of having ALS and dietary intake of Poly-Unsaturated Fatty-Acids (PUFA).
Although the symptoms vary from person to person, the general indications include muscletwitches in the arm, leg,shoulder, or tongue; muscle cramps; tight and stiff muscles, known as spasticity; muscle weakness affecting an arm, a leg, neck or diaphragm. The affected person may feel uncomfortable to maintain balance while walking or running. They may stumble frequently. Doing simple tasks like holding a pend to write or unbuttoning a shirt may become difficult.
Typical symptoms include:
• Difficulty in swallowing (increased risk of choking)
• Weight loss (muscle-mass)
• Mild problems with decision-making & word-generation, slurred speech
• Heavy breathing
However, in rare cases there could be development of pre-frontal dementia & personality changes.
Most significant symptoms
Fasciculations or fine muscle twitches in the arm, leg, shoulder, or tongue are present in almost all patients.Fasciculation is a major sign of the disease.
Another characteristic of ALS is that, regardless of whether the initial disease involves the upper or lower regions of the central nervous system, both will eventually be affected. Somecases of ALS have dementia or forgetfulness.
Vigilance is key
The advanced stage of detection is proactively seeking to determine weather ALS is the reason for symptoms. But to reach this stage there has to be active vigilanceon part of the patient and those around him/her. Contrary to the popular “positive thinking” lingo in the media, it is always better to be vigilant for symptoms of any malfunction of normal bodily functions.
A delay in hand-eye coordination, breathing problems, twitching of fingers or sluggish response of normal limbs should all serve as warning signs. Early detection and suspicion can help in proactive early diagnoses by reaching out to doctors and this can help in proper treatment to halt the spread of the disease at the early stage itself. This can help in prolonging life expectancy by 2-3 times.