What Exactly is Lou Gehrig’s Disease And What Can Be Done to Prolong Life
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease because the famous baseball player contracted it and ultimately died from it at age 37.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the spinal cord and nerve cells in the brain. After diagnosis, the expected life span of a patient suffering from the disease is less than five years. It is a progressive disease that eventually and inevitably leads to death.
Unfortunately, there is no known pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions that will cure for this fatal disease.
Doctors prescribe drugs to reduce symptoms. Riluzole has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in treating ALS. Although this drug does not repair damage already done, it does slow the decline, extending the life of the patient for several months. It also delays the time when life support interventions will be necessary. Riluzole slows the release of glutamate, which will reduce damage to motor neurons. This new drug instills hope in ALS patients and their families that there may one day be a cure for the disease.
What About Cholesterol?
Medical doctors often prescribe a reduction of cholesterol. But, the white matter or myelin that makes up 75% of your brain and surrounds nerve cells is made mainly of cholesterol. Myelin is essential to the proper functioning of the nervous system.
So, it’s natural to expect some degradation in the myelin in the brain and nervous system when you are reducing your cholesterol intake and taking cholesterol lowering drugs.
This degradation of myelin in various areas of the brain is a characteristic of several diseases such as Parkinsons, multiple sclerosis, ALS and Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Wallach explains this in the following video.
ND Dr Joel Wallach on Parkinsons, ALS, MS, Alzheimers and more
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Other Doctor prescribed prescription drugs for the disease are designed to improve the quality of life in an ALS patient. Because the muscles deteriorate until they no longer function (this happens at varying speeds) a physician will work out a medical plan that is most effective for the average person. Each case should be examined for the development and intensity of symptoms at that period.
Drugs such as ibuprofen will reduce general pain and it is commonly used to increase comfort levels. Baclofen or tizanadine help reduce muscle spasms. Physical therapy is essential in maintaining flexibility and reducing risk of permanent muscle contractions. It also helps with pain management.
Proper nutrition is important as the ALS patient needs easy to swallow foods that build energy. Speech therapy can also enhance the ability to communicate verbally for as long as possible. As the disease progressives, life support interventions will need to be employed to sustain life. Feeding tubes and breathing machines will need to be used. Heart problems may also need treatment to prolong the life of the patient.
Lou Gehrig’s disease is fatal when it is treated with drugs.
At this time, there are no prescription drug cures but there are medical treatments that will help prolong life and add to the quality of life. This disease is tragic and affects the lives of the patient and family.