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This Month In Health
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    If you’ve been nominated by your friends to pour a bucket of ice water on your head, you may have been one of the millions who’ve donated funds to the ALS Association in hopes that a cure may be found for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Read on to learn more about the mysterious disease that has people chilling out across the globe. Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

ALS Aware

Did you take the challenge?

If you’ve been nominated by your friends to pour a bucket of ice water on your head, you may have been one of the millions who’ve donated funds to the ALS Association in hopes that a cure may be found for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Raising more than 100 million dollars toward finding a cure for this disease, the ice bucket challenge will not be completely successful until a cure is found.

Read on to learn more about the mysterious disease that has people chilling out across the globe.

I have been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It’s a terminal disease with an average lifespan of two to five years post-diagnosis, and scientists don’t know what causes it. ALS prevents your brain from talking to your muscles. As a result, muscles die. As a result, every 90 minutes people die. I am a person. - Steve Gleason

What are the Symptoms?

Before recent publicity surrounding ALS, you may not have heard much about it. Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, because the well-known baseball player suffered from ALS, this neurological disease causes brain and spinal cord nerve cells to die. Without enough nerve cells, muscles progressively weaken until the point that those with the condition can no longer physically function.

No two people have the same experience with ALS. It often begins with muscle weakness or tightness in the extremities, trouble swallowing, or slurred speech. An individual with ALS may have trouble walking or be unable to hold his or her head up. The weakness slowly gets worse until the legs and arms lose their ability to move and muscles begin to atrophy. The muscle of the mouth and chest weaken as well, making it eventually impossible to talk, chew, swallow, and even breathe. Paralysis slowly sets in.

Somehow, all the senses, the ability to think clearly, and bladder and bowel control usually aren’t affected.

Since there’s no cure, the disease is fatal. The cause of death is usually respiratory failure. From the time symptoms begin, ALS patients normally have two to five years to live, though for one out of ten times the disease progresses slowly enough that the sufferer may live ten or more years.

Who’s at Risk?

As there is no known cause of ALS, doctors are baffled as to why one person gets it while another does not. Only five to ten percent of the time does the disease seem to be inherited. All races are affected by ALS, though it appears to be more common among white men in their 40s to 60s.

The possible causes of ALS include inherited genetic mutations, a chemical imbalance in the brain, an improper immune response, the body’s mishandling of proteins in nerve cells, or environmental factors such as smoking (increases one’s risk by 50 percent) or exposure to lead or other toxic substances.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There’s no test to diagnose ALS, so diagnosis is determined by the presence of symptoms and numerous tests done to rule out other infectious diseases or neurological disorders that affect the nerves and muscles and cause similar symptoms. An ALS diagnosis deserves a second opinion by a qualified neurologist to confirm original diagnosis.

Is There Any Treatment?

While there is no cure for ALS as of yet, there are ways to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms. A drug called riluzole, which has been available since 1995, helps reduce damage to nerve cells by controlling the release of chemicals in the brain. Those who take this drug can expect to live several months longer than their ALS peers who do not take the medication. The success of riluzole holds promise that new medications may be developed to slow the disease even further.

Management of symptoms may include additional medications and help from doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, speech therapists, home health care professionals, support groups, and nutritionists.
ALS is a terrible disease that deserves the media attention and donations it has recently received. May the monies go toward finding a cure quickly. And with your ice-cold help, it may happen during your lifetime.

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