Cause of ALS
In the approximately 90% of cases that are not familial, there is no known cause for the contracting of ALS.
In the familial cases the cause seems to be mutated or defective genes. To date, five different genes have been found that, when defective, seem to cause ALS in hereditary cases.
There is some evidence that other factors such as excess glutamate (chemical messenger in the brain), the immune system attacking normal cells or abnormal forms of proteins within nerve cells may each have some association with the cause of ALS. These factors are still under study but appear to have merit.
Risk Factors for ALS
- Heredity – A family history of ALS increases the chances of contracting this disease.
- Age – Those between 40 and 60 years of age are most likely to contract ALS.
- Gender – Of the cases diagnosed under 65 years of age, ALS is slightly more prevalent in men.
- Smoking – The incidence of ALS is almost twice as common among smokers as non-smokers. The amount smoked and the number of years a person smokes increases the chances of developing ALS.
- Lead Exposure – Workplace exposure to lead seems to be a risk factor in contracting ALS
- Military Service – Studies have shown that military veterans are twice as likely to contract ALS. The reason for this is unknown but Gulf War soldiers seem to be particularly susceptible.
Symptoms of ALS
Symptoms can vary between sufferers.
- Muscle weakness associated with hand, arm and/or leg movement
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing
- Impaired breathing
- Muscle cramps and twitching
- Weakened reflexes
- Low muscle tone (loose or floppy limbs indicate low muscle tone)
Progression of ALS
Early symptoms are muscle weakness or stiffness. As the disease progresses there will be an increased weakness followed by wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk. At some point, muscles that control functions such as speech and swallowing will be affected followed by difficulty breathing.
THIS MATERIAL DOES NOT CONSTITUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. IT IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. PLEASE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN FOR SPECIFIC TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS.