Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in women
Although the disease is prevalent in men, women get affected too by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive, usually fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells, that are responsible for controlling motor muscles. The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by degeneration and eventually death of motor neurons.
Approximately from 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this disease every year.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is most common in people between 40 and 60 years of age.
– Stiffness of muscles
– Muscle weakness of an arm or a leg
– Slurred and nasal speach
– Difficulty chewing and swallowing
As the disease progress patients have problems moving, swallowing and forming words or even speaking.
Also other symptoms are muscle weakness and atrophy, fleeting twitches of muscles under the skin and muscle cramps.
Causes for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
The cause of ALS is not known, and it is not yet known why ALS affects some people. It has been discovered that mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme are related with some cases of ALS. The enzyme produced by this gene is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damage that can be caused by free radicals.
Due to unknown medical reasons in neurodegenerative diseases, it is known neurons begin to die – slowly or sometimes faster. Depending on which area of the brain the neurons are located, those patients develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis name is given on the basis of the pathologic description. In this disease motor-neurons die that are located in the front horn of the spinal cord and part of neurons in the brain. These two groups of neurons have common features and are associated with the lateral pyramidal pathway – the fibers that transmit impulses. Thus pathologic scientists have found that lateral sclerosis is develop in the pathways, which is a consequence of cell death. In Anglo-Saxon literature, the disease is known as motor-neuronal disease in the U.S. and as Lou Gerig’s disease – a popular American baseball player.
Characteristic of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is that it is developing very fast. Usually around the age of 50 begin a slow and gradual melting of the muscles – most often around the palm of a hand. In the early stages most people may not even pay attention. There is also twitching of the muscles. Gradually, however, the process progresses and within a year and a half the upper arm can be affected, then the other arm and then the legs. Depending on the form, the disease progresses for about 3-4 years. The end result is the patient’s disability and death due to other concomitant diseases – pneumonia, respiratory disorder, etc. According to the severity of the disease the median survival of patients is between 2 and 4 years. Unfortunately there isn’t a way by which it can be established how the disease will progress.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is relatively rare and therefore not as popular as multiple sclerosis, for example. Another reason this disease is not well known is because so far there isn’t a cure. There are many attempts, but the problem is that it is not known what causes the death of the neurons.
There are several theories, one of them is related to the so-called free radicals. It is known that the body has its own systems and mechanisms to clear the free radicals, but for some reason they are disturbed and free radicals damage the cells. Some scientists believe that this is driven by other toxic substances from the environment, but it has not been established what exactly. There is also a theory that in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the amount of glutamate is increased – toxic neurotransmitter. Some time ago attempts were made with a drug that inhibits glutamate. This medicine had great hopes, but it turned out that it is not effective. Unfortunately it is hasn’t been invented anything new to stop the death of neurons.
The truth is that there is some mechanism when once started, the process won’t stop. Unfortunately nobody has found the mechanism.