The Dark Side of ALS You Should Know
First off, there are a lot of people who think about the infamous ice bucket challenge whenever they are asked about what ALS is. However, they dont really know what ALS is. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) results in the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles. Once the neurons die your muscles become stiff, they start twitching, and it will get even worse. Once ALS has advanced you will have difficulty at speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.
During the first stages of ALS 75% of them experience weakness or atrophy in an arm or leg, this is also known as “limb-onset”. Also awkwardness will be experienced when youre walking or running. As ALS progresses, youll begin to trip over or start dragging your foot as you walk. Everyday activities will be more difficult to fulfill. It will come to a point where you cant even pick up a glass of water. Even a walk to the gorgeous beach with crystal-clear water is an impossible task.
Let me now explain in a specific way how your body slowly starts to malfunction.
The most experienced symptom is muscle weakness
The degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons is the main reason why your muscles weaken. However, the muscles used in the bladder, bowel, and the ones that control the eye movement are only affected in the final stages of ALS.
The medications baclofen or diazepam is able to control muscle spasms. Not only is there medication for muscle spasm but also for the overproduction of saliva. The overproduction o saliva occurs once youve lost the ability to sallow.
As ALS progresses, you have difficulty to breathe. The lack of oxygen will eventually lead to death. However, devices created to help you breathe were created. Such devices are practical and are worn mostly at night. Not being able to breathe will make you have a high chance of getting the flu. Also, pneumonia or any bacterial or viral infection can be triggered due to the weakening of the respiratory muscles.
Swallowing and Speaking Difficulties
Difficulty in swallowing will be experienced. The weakening of the lips, tongue, soft palate, pharynx, and the larynx are the reason why youre not able to swallow. The everyday meals and beverages you enjoyed once are now a huge challenge for you. If you still havent experienced difficulty in swallowing but do experience difficulty at breathing it will still be challenging to swallow. The reason why its still difficult to swallow is because you arent able to coordinate between breathing and swallowing.
With time, pronouncing certain words or letters becomes difficult. It can even get to a point where people arent able to understand what youre saying. The solution that people with ALS have come up with is the usage of technology or body language. However, once the weakening of your muscles is extreme you wont be able to use technology or body language.
At this stage a feeding tube will most likely be placed in your stomach for making the task easier. To maintain strength in your muscles people opt for physical therapy. Physical therapy can also control muscle contractions. Speech therapy can help people with speech and swallowing difficulties. However, once youve reached the final stages of ALS it will be difficult for them to work.