Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressively degenerative disease affecting the body’s brain and spinal cord nerve cells. The damage over time leads to loss of muscle control in the majority of the body.
Currently, there is no known cure for this terrible disease and doctor’s still don’t fully understand how this disease comes about. But they are clear on one thing: looking out for warning signs for early intervention is the key to slowing down the disease and letting the sufferer live a better life.
Make sure that you’re keeping watch for these nine critical warning signs of ALS for the best treatment outcomes.
9 Warning Signs of ALS
Early intervention is important for ALS. Below we’ll go into key signs to look for a potentially ALS diagnosis. Keep track of approximately when you’ve started noticing these symptoms and how bad they are to help your doctor put together a treatment plan for you.
1. Muscle Twitches
One of the first early warning signs of ALS is muscle twitches. These are likely to begin occurring in the arms and legs but can also be felt in your shoulders and even the tongue. These can be easy to misdiagnose as Restless Leg Syndrome for leg twitches, chalked up to poor circulation, or vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
These twitches will be involuntary and more often than not are perceived as annoying and not painful. If you’re living a fairly active life and have had normal blood work then it’s worth talking to your doctor about.
2. Muscle Cramping & Weakness
Along with muscle twitches, you may notice cramping and weakness in your muscles. Although this can sometimes be attributed to a good workout at the gym, your muscles shouldn’t be cramping and weak if you’re not pushing their limits.
If you find that your body is frequently sore and weak without any real explanation, it’s worthwhile to bring up with your doctor to determine the root cause.
3. Changes In Posture
With muscle weaknesses, cramping, and twitching you may notices changes physically with yourself. Posture is largely dictated by muscle strength to hold your back and core from curving. Those with weak muscles tend to have a more curved posture.
If you’ve once stood tall and straight, but all of a sudden notice an unexplained hunch or curve to your posture it’s worthwhile to note the symptom and bring it up with your doctor.
4. Tripping and Falling
Do you notice yourself conducting random gravity checks? Maybe you’ve been walking on a flat surface and tripped, maybe even fell. Once in a while, this does happen to the average person but if this is occurring frequently enough to be noticeable it’s best to note it.
If you’ve noticed that you’ve been tripping and falling a lot more frequently be it on flat surfaces or uneven ones, it’s worth bringing up with your doctor to rule out things like loss of vision, and determine if maybe it’s a warning sign of ALS.
5. Speech Difficulties
Slurred and nasally speech is another one of our early symptoms of ALS. Since your tongue is a muscle, ALS may compromise the functional ability to speak clearly normally. You or your loved ones will likely notice changes in your speaking abilities.
If you’ve had clear speech before and notice or have been told there’s a change in the way you speak that isn’t related to cold, for example, be sure to bring it up with your doctor.
6. Weakness In Hands
Have you been dropping things more than usual? Maybe you’ve noticed your hand grip on things isn’t how it used to be. Maybe you’re having trouble holding your purse, or find yourself unable to hold a pot of food with one or two hands.
If you notice a difference in your hand strength from what your normal abilities are, you should definitely bring it up with your family doctor to rule out ALS as a potential diagnosis.
7. Difficulties Breathing & Swallowing
Have you been experiencing trouble or difficulty breathing? Has swallowing your food or even your own saliva become a bit difficult? You could be experiencing a symptom of ALS.
Breathing and swallowing require the work of your muscles, and since ALS attacks muscle function you may begin to start having trouble doing either of these.
8. Difficulty Doing Normal Activities
Are the activities you normally do wearing you down? Have your simple everyday tasks become more difficult? This may be an early warning sign of ALS.
Often times, sufferers will report that simple tasks like turning a key in a lock, or opening doors becoming difficult for them to do. It isn’t normal for a seemingly healthy individual to start struggling with their normal activities. If you’ve noticed a change be sure to tell your doctor immediately for further testing.
Last but not least, the final critical warning sign of ALS is fatigue. Like most diseases, ALS takes a toll on the body, which in turn makes sufferers feel much more tired than they normally would. Especially since your body will try to compensate for the muscle weakness by overcompensating with other muscles in your body.
If you’ve noticed yourself becoming more tired without any changes to your day to day, talk to your family doctor about your symptom.
Treatments For ALS
There are a few treatment options from pharmaceuticals to cannabis for ALS treatment. It’s important to understand that because there’s no cure, the treatments for ALS are about symptom management.
The best approach found so far in symptom aid is a multidisciplinary one. This is where a team of health care professionals like physiotherapists, medical doctors, nutritionists, and speech pathologists to name a few, work together and with you to help you fair better.
Showing Warning Signs of ALS?
If you or your loved one is exhibiting any of the above discussed warning signs of ALS, it’s best to contact your family doctor to talk further about testing. Any changes from your normal everyday health should be noted and addressed with your GP.
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