ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a condition that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Over time, the neurons in these areas degenerate leading to a loss of muscle control and eventually death, due to an inability to breathe on one’s own.
Aside from a few cases in which it is inherited, ALS can appear in anyone at any time. It is most common, though, is people aged 40-70, and in military veterans. The cause of this latter group’s predisposition to the disease is not known at this time, and, unfortunately, neither is a clear, direct cause of ALS. It could, however, be a result of a variety of things, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain, a genetic mutation (this accounts for the patients who inherit the disease), and the body’s mishandling of the protein in its cells.
Regardless of what causes the disease, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms. ALS cannot be cured, but it can be treated with medications, and as it progresses, special measures will have to be taken to ensure that the person suffering from it is able to move and breathe properly.
Unfortunately (again), it is difficult to identify the symptoms of ALS early on, as they are different in everyone, and they are very subtle. Even at later stages, these symptoms are often painless, which can give its sufferers the mistaken impression that they don’t need to address them.
However, there are some signs that can be noticed relatively early on if one is very attentive. If you or your senior care aide notice any of these symptoms in your aging loved one, be sure to get them a medical checkup as soon as possible
- Unusual clumsiness – Tripping, falling, losing one’s balance, or dropping things are not all that uncommon in the elderly. However, they could also be a sign that something is going wrong in the brain or in the muscles, making it difficult to keep ones balance or to control one’s arms and legs the way one should.
- Weakness in certain body parts – A weakness in the hands, legs, feet, or arms can indicate that the muscles are not receiving the signals they should be, and thusly cannot act in a way that allows one to carry out their normal, voluntary functions such as holding things or walking.
- Slurred speech – Speaking is another action that requires voluntary movement of one’s muscles. If the neurons are damages in the brain or spina cord, the mouth and tongue don’t receive the proper signals they require to be able to perform all the movements required to speak.
- Twitching or pain – Involuntary twitching of arms, shoulders, and tongue, as well as pain in these muscles, can be caused by ALS as well, as it means that signals are not getting through as they should be.
Any of these symptoms, alone or in conjunction with the other symptoms on this list, can be indicative of ALS, and should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Ridgefield, CT, or the surrounding areas, please contact SYNERGY HomeCare of Danbury, CT at 203-731-2544.