Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - Topic Overview
Tests needed to confirm ALS may
Just because you have muscle weakness,
fatigue, stiffness, and twitching doesn't mean that you have ALS. Those
symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. So talk to your doctor if you
have those symptoms.
If your doctor thinks that you have ALS, he or she will refer you to a
neurologist to make sure.
How is it treated?
There is no cure for ALS, but
treatment can help you stay strong and independent for as long as possible. It
can also help you avoid other problems from ALS. For example:
- Physical and
occupational therapy can help you stay strong and make the most of the
abilities you still have.
- Speech therapy can help you keep your ability to talk
after problems with speech begin.
- Supportive devices and equipment can help you stay mobile, communicate, and do daily tasks like bathing, eating, and dressing. Some examples are canes, walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, handrails, raised toilet seats, and shower seats. You can also get braces to support your feet, ankles, or neck.
- Medicines can help relieve your symptoms and keep you comfortable. There are medicines that can help with many of the symptoms you might have, such as muscle problems (stiffness, cramps, twitching), drooling and extra saliva, depression and mood swings, and pain.
- Breathing devices can help you breathe more easily as your chest muscles weaken.
A medicine called riluzole (Rilutek) may prolong survival by about 2 months.2 But it doesn't improve symptoms or quality of life in ways that people with ALS, their caregivers, or their doctors have been able to notice. Most people tolerate riluzole very well, but it can cause side effects, including nausea, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and coughing. Treatment with riluzole is also expensive, and it may not help some people.
What decisions will you face as ALS progresses?
you or a family member has ALS, learn as much as you can about the disease and
how to take care of it. How much treatment you want for the problems caused by
ALS is a personal choice that only you and your loved ones can make. Your
values, wants, and needs are important things to think about as you make
choices about your care.
As ALS symptoms get worse, you may have
to choose which treatments you want for issues like breathing and eating problems. For example, do you want a tracheostomy if your breathing problems become severe? Do you want a feeding tube placed in your stomach if you lose your ability to swallow?