What is the full form of ALS ?

What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS is popularly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease after it was diagnosed in a baseball player’s body. It is a rare neurological disorder affecting the motor neurons. Motor neurons carry the impulse from the brain or spinal cord to the effector organ in a reflex arc. ALS patients face difficulty in daily activities like speaking, walking or swallowing food


The symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis vary from individual to individual, depending on the type of neurons getting affected. The major symptoms include muscle fatigueness that might worsen over time. Following are the symptoms: −

  • Difficulty in performing daily activities.

  • Sudden falling down due to loss of balance.

  • Weakness in different body parts.

  • Weakness in the limbs.

  • Troubling in speech and swallowing.

  • Muscle cramps and spasm.

  • Improper crying and laughing

  • Inappropriate Cognitive and significant behavioural changes


There are some specific criteria for diagnosing ALS which is often referred to as El Escorial World Federation of Neurology criteria.

According to this criteria, the diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis requires the following −

  • Sudden degeneration of motor neurons of lower parts of the body which include spinal cord and Medulla Oblongata, by mode of specialised clinical testing.

  • Sudden degeneration of motor neurons of upper parts which include the brain, by mode of specialised clinical testing.

  • The rate of spreading the infection becomes much faster in the entire body.

  • Abstinence from electrophysiological, pathological, and other neuroimaging confirms the other disease processes that can explain the observed clinical symptoms in any body parts.


There are quite a few novel treatment strategies for the disease.They are as followsn −

Over-the-Counter or OTC Therapies

Non-Prescribed medicines are strictly not allowed for ALS care. But this therapy can be convenient for treating the symptoms developed due to ALS like pain,constipation, acidity etc.Muscle cramming is very common in ALS and the counter therapies can undergo the pain treatments with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs which relieve the pain to a greater extent.

Surgeries and Specialist-Driven Procedures

There is a high chance of significant disability in ALS as it happened with Sir Stephen Hawkings.But there are certain specialised interventions which are needed for treating the disease and these treatments provide long term survival by maintaining the basic life leading amenities like breathing, nutrition, and movability.

Feeding Devices

People quite often lose the ability to chew in ALS and a feeding tube is the best option to replace that condition.Surgically a feeding tube is placed inside the stomach for smooth transportation of the nutrients.Consultation with a dietitian is must for proper intake of nutritional requirements according to the patient's health condition.

Ventilator Support

Respiratory trouble is a very common issue in ALS and often an artificial respiratory support system is required in the form of ventilation for the patient.The technique involves placing a tube down the throat into the trachea and the entire setup remains associated with an external supply of oxygen that controls the breathing rate.

Physical Therapy

ALS involves muscle spasm and sensation of weakness in the limbs. Physiotherapy can reduce the amount of muscle atrophy and spasms with balanced muscular control. Physical therapy also helps to get over other complications like sudden muscular inactivity, Pneumonia and DVT.

Support Devices

External support devices are a basic necessity for ALS diagnosed patients as it involves improper movement and the patient finds difficulty in walking or sitting properly. The devices include-splints, wheelchairs or any support system that can help patients with toilet facility. People must learn how to use the assistive devices as it becomes crucial for their sustenance.

Risk Factors

Following are the various risk factors of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis −

  • Inheritance factor5-10% of the people with ALS have inherited the disease. Majority of the people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis disorder can give rise to a progeny with 50% chance of acquiring the disease.

  • Age − The risk of ALS increases with ageing and is very common amongst the age group of 40-60 years.

  • Sex − Men develop ALS faster than women till the age of 65 but after that age limit chances are equal for both men and women.

  • Genetics − A lot of genetic variations is observed amongst people who have a similar form of ALS and it has generated a curiosity amongst the research due to the differences in the variation with familial ALS.


Once diagnosed with ALS one needs prolonged medical treatment but extensive research is going over the different healthcare facilities and medical treatment for the disease. Maintenance of a proper and healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of many complications like frequent infections and over the counter therapies can help control the disease to a greater extent


Q1. What causes Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

Ans. Till date the exact cause of ALS is not known.but researchers have been analysing several factors that associate with ALS and one of them is heredity and environmental exposures. Research is also going on the aspects of food and diet which might be a reason for the disease. No cause has been found for most cases of ALS. We expect a better answer in the future for its exact cause.

Q2.How long do people with ALS live?

Ans. The life expectancy is very less with ALS. The chances of survival for a disease varies from 3-5 years.The longevity of an ALS patient varies with the age as.f a person is detected with ALS early then he/she is expected to live a longer life in comparison to the one who is getting it at a later age.

Q3.Is ALS an inheritable disease?

Ans. About 5–10% of ALS cases are inheritable and happen within the same family and this type is called familial ALS and it signifies multiple persons from the same family have been impacted.The gene that is involved in causing the disease is called SOD 1 whose mutational activities result in such diasaters.

Updated on: 17-Apr-2023


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