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When a person is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the world is changing. They are suddenly faced with a serious disease that could affect every aspect of their life. Therefore, it is clear these patients need help, especially those who diagnosed with ASL later in life. Answering some frequently asked questions they might have would be a good start.
What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?
The word “amyotrophic” means “without muscle nourishment”. It refers to the loss of signals the nerves normally send to the muscles.
“Lateral” means “to the side”, and refers to the location of the damage in the spinal cord.
“Sclerosis” means “hardened” and refers to the hardened nature of the spinal cord in advanced ALS.
ALS attacks the nerve cells, or neurons, responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die. Off course, once this happen, neurons cease to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away, and twitch. Eventually, the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost as well. Individuals with ALS lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body, which can be frightening. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals lose the ability to breathe without artificial support.
In most cases, the disease does not impair a person’s mind, personality, intelligence, or memory. It will probably not affect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch. A small percentage of patients may experience problems with memory or decision-making. There is growing evidence that some may even develop a form of dementia caused by ALS.