Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease which starts with the destruction of a specific region of the spinal cord and affects and weakens the nerves and muscles. Unfortunately, the reason of ALS is still unknown and ALS has no definitive treatment yet. However, the lifetime of the patient can be extended by methods to improve the quality of life of the patient.
21th of June is World ALS Day which is important to create awareness of this disease. ALS was first described in 1869 by Frenchman Jean-Martin Charcot, who was a pioneering neurologist in his field. This is why this disease was named Charcot Disease for the first time. ALS is also referred as to LouGehrig, the famous baseball player in America, and known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND) in England.
ALS shows different indications in each patient. Sometimes it shows itself as a weakness in speech or swallowing in some patients and a weakness in a heart or leg usually accompanied by a different onset and course in each patient.
ALS, which is shown in about 2-6 percent of the world’s population, is more likely to be seen in men than in women. The disease, which often appears to be over the age of 55, is sometimes seen in very young or very advanced ages. Only 10 percent of patients have innate ALS. For this reason, it can be said that the disease is mostly not related to heredity. However, in recent years, there have been many mutations predicted to be related to ALS.
Weakness of ALS spreads to other organs from the beginning over time. In the whole body, muscle weakness, twitches can restrict the daily life activity of the patient. Over time, the patient may become dependent on the bed. Breathing apparatus may be needed. In this period, rehabilitation and support treatments affect the quality and duration of the patient’s life.
Stephen Hawking, a well-known scientist who has survived 50 years after the diagnosis, is still suffering from ALS. With the support of medical personnel and technical equipment, Hawking continues to communicate with its surroundings and continues its scientific research. Although the survival time from the start of the disease is usually four to six years, patients who have lived or are not progressing for ten years or longer have also been reported. The reason for this difference is not fully known. Along with the intensive treatment of drug studies for the treatment, ALS has no definitive treatment yet.