Items in AFP with MESH term: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neuromuscular condition characterized by weakness, muscle wasting, fasciculations and increased reflexes. Approximately 30,000 Americans currently have the disease. The annual incidence rate is one to two cases per 100,000. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in middle age and affects more men than women. It usually presents with problems in dexterity or gait resulting from muscle weakness. Difficulty in speaking or swallowing is the initial symptom in the bulbar form of the disease. Over a period of months or years, patients with ALS develop severe, progressive muscular weakness and other symptoms caused by loss of function in both upper and lower motor neurons. Sphincter control, sensory function, intellectual abilities and skin integrity are preserved. Patients become completely disabled, often requiring ventilatory support and gastrostomy. Death usually occurs within five years of diagnosis and is attributed to respiratory failure or cachexia. The etiology of the disease is unknown. Current research is focused on abnormalities of neuronal cell metabolism involving glutamate and the role of potential neurotoxins and neurotrophic factors. New drugs are being developed based on these theories. Current management involves aggressive, individualized alleviation of symptoms and complications.