What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive, fatal neurological disease affecting as many as 20,000 Americans with 5,000 new cases occurring in the United States each year. The disorder belongs to a class of disorders known as motor neuron diseases. ALS occurs when specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement gradually degenerate. The loss of these motor neurons causes the muscles under their control to weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. ALS manifests itself in different ways, depending on which muscles weaken first. Symptoms may include tripping and falling, loss of motor control in hands and arms, difficulty speaking, swallowing and/or breathing, persistent fatigue, and twitching and cramping, sometimes quite severely. ALS strikes in mid-life. Men are about one-and-a-half times more likely to have the disease as women.
Is there any treatment?
There is no cure for ALS; nor is there a proven therapy that will prevent or reverse the course of the disorder. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved riluzole, the first drug that has been shown to prolong the survival of ALS patients. Patients may also receive supportive treatments that address some of their symptoms.
What is the prognosis?
ALS is usually fatal within five years after diagnosis.
What research is being done?
The NINDS supports a broad range of studies aimed at discovering the cause(s) of ALS, finding better treatments, and ultimately preventing and curing the disorder.
Drugs are the mainstay of treatment Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There are, however, a few nutrients that may prove helpful. Here’s what some doctors recommend.
Nutrients, Daily Amounts, and Applications
- Selenium: 100 micrograms
- Vitamin B12: 500 micrograms
- Vitamin C: 1,000-2,000 milligrams, taken as 2-4 divided doses
- Vitamin E: 800 international units
- Plus a multivitamin/mineral supplement containing the Daily Values of all essential vitamins and minerals
- If you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, you should be under a doctor’s care.
- Injections of vitamin B12 are required for people who have problems absorbing this nutrient.
- Vitamin C in doses exceeding 1,200 milligrams a day can cause diarrhea in some people.
- It’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking more than 600 international units of vitamin E a day. If you are taking anticoagulant drugs, you should not take vitamin E supplements.