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Treatment Overview

Although there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), treatment can help you maintain strength and independence, manage symptoms, and avoid complications for as long as possible. Treatment also focuses on providing emotional support as your disability increases.

Physical therapists and occupational therapists can help you maintain strength and function and make the most of your remaining abilities. Speech therapists can help you maintain your ability to communicate after speaking problems begin.

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Medicines may be used to relieve symptoms and make you more comfortable. These include:

If you are having problems getting enough food or taking medicine, a tube can be inserted through the skin into the stomach (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, or PEG). The tube provides an easier way to get adequate nutrition and take medicines.

Breathing devices may be needed as the muscles of the chest become affected. Initially, extra oxygen can be given through a nasal cannula, a flexible plastic tube that is placed in the nostrils. For people who have mild breathing problems, nonsurgical forms of ventilation may be used. These include bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV), which deliver air or extra oxygen through a face mask. But in some cases, an opening in the neck leading to the windpipe (tracheostomy) may have to be created and oxygen delivered through a tube in the opening.

At first, breathing devices may be needed only part of the time, such as when you are sleeping. As the disease and breathing problems get worse, you may need to be on a breathing machine all the time.

Riluzole

A medicine called riluzole (Rilutek) may prolong survival by about 2 months.4 It is not known exactly how the medicine works, but it may slow the release of certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that are believed to play a role in ALS. Riluzole is the only medicine approved for the treatment of ALS.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 14, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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