All you need to know about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is also known as motor neuron disease. Some also refer to ALS as Lou Gehrig’s disease after Lou Gehrig as he was the first to be diagnosed with the condition in the 1930s and also, he was a famous American baseball player. The condition of ALS is progressive in nature, and the fatal disease affects the central nervous system and brain as well. ALS destroys the nerve cells in the body which leads to disability and during the last stages of the disease, the patient may even get paralyzed.

The nerve cells that are found in the spinal cord and central nervous system are known as motor neurons. In ALS, these motor neurons are slowly destroyed, and as a result, the patients are unable to work effectively. The process of slow deterioration of neurons is also known as neurodegeneration. These motor neurons control vital muscle activities such as walking, speaking, swallowing, breathing and gripping. For ALS, there is no single test or procedure to be accurately diagnosed. Therapy and medications can slow down ALS and reduce the discomfort, but there is no cure for it.

Following are some of the risk factors for ALS:

  • Genetics
    There have been various studies conducted that examined the human genome entirely. The studies have found that there are some similarities within the gene variation in those who have non-inherited ALS as well as a few of those who have familial ALS. This genetic variation may result in certain people being more prone to developing the condition.
  • Gender
    It is one of the most negligent risk factors for ALS. It has been observed that those who are younger than 65 and have been diagnosed with this condition are more likely to be men than women. However, this gender differentiation tends to disappear in those patients over the age of 70 and who are diagnosed with ALS.
  • Heredity
    Heredity being one of the risk factors of ALS constitutes roughly about 5-10% of people have inherited this condition. The people who have inherited ALS, their children also have a fifty-fifty chance of developing the condition.
  • Age
    One of the risk factors of ALS is age as the chances of ALS developing will increase with age. The condition is observed most commonly in those who are in their 40s and older.

Environmental risk factors
In the risk factors of ALS, it has been documented that environmental factors may also have a role to play. These environmental risk factors for ALS include:

  • Smoking
    Smoking cigarettes are likely to be an environmental risk for ALS. The risk is higher especially for women, and the risk is increased after the menopause period.
  • Military service
    An increased level of risk in developing ADS has been observed by those who have completed military service. The reason why the link exists is still not very clear. Though some research suggests that people in the military service are usually exposed to many chemicals, traumatic injuries, viral infection and also go through intense physical exertion which may play a role in the development of the disease.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
    It is suggested by certain pieces of evidence and instances that exposure to toxins such as lead in the home or workplace may be linked to the development of ALS. Various studies are being conducted to identify as to which is the exact kind of toxin exposure that increases the risk of ALS. However, no single chemical has been identified.