what is als

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affects approximately 12,000 to 15,000 people in the United States (as estimated by the CDC), with around 5,000 new diagnoses made each year. Most people recognize ALS though as its more common moniker, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Beyond the fact that this condition is named for a famous baseball player, many still do not fully understand the nature of this neurodegenerative disorder.

At Austin Neuromuscular Center (ANC), ALS is one of the main conditions that our Central Texas neuromuscular specialists treat, and we are forever striving to provide a better quality of life for those living with it.

What is ALS?

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that aggressively attacks nerve cells associated with muscle control. As the disease progresses, muscles weaken and atrophy eventually leading to severe issues with not just mobility but vital tasks such as swallowing, eating and breathing as well. Most ALS patients will die of respiratory failure in the end.

The exact cause of ALS is not known, although genetics, environment, and lifestyle are all thought to play a role.

Some symptoms of ALS include:

  • Muscle weakness and stiffness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing or chewing
  • Difficulty breathing

ALS is diagnosed primarily by EMG/NCS and clinical exam, but genetic testing, lab work, CSF analysis, and imaging may take a role.

In addition to Lou Gehrig, other notable figures who have been affected by ALS include author and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, actor David Niven, and Jon Stone, the imaginative writer who created Sesame Street.

Is there a cure or treatment for ALS?

While there is currently no cure for ALS, symptoms can be treated to help improve functionality and comfort for those affected.

FDA-approved treatments commonly used to treat ALS include medications Riluzole and Radicava, and a newly developed oral form of Radicava called Edaravone.

Supporting breathing and respiratory health and maintaining a consistent weight are also key in slowing progression of the disease and extending life expectancy.

ANC is very active in neuromuscular research and clinical trials at the national and international level, and we are always hopeful and searching for a cure to end ALS.

What resources are available at ANC’s ALS Clinic?

Effective management of ALS stems from the combined efforts of multiple specialists dedicated to treating the whole person via each of the individual and varied symptoms.

Twice a month (every first and third Tuesday), ANC provides a multidisciplinary clinic for patients who are treated by specialists dedicated to respiratory therapy, speech language/pathology, physical therapy, dietary needs, wheelchair needs, communication and assistive devices (Jimmy Hudson with ImproveAbility), social work, and an ALSA representative.

Patients and families are also able to meet with representatives from other Austin-area ALS support groups.

Austin Neuromuscular Center (ANC) was established in 2015 as the premier comprehensive neuromuscular specialty center serving patients in Austin and throughout Central Texas. Our practice is family-operated and provides expertise in neuromuscular and electrodiagnostic medicine, as well as infusion services, a pathology lab, and access to cutting-edge medical trials.

For questions about our services or to schedule an appointment (please note that we are a referral-based practice), contact us here.

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