Receiving a diagnosis of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) can raise lots of questions and apprehensions, both for the individual diagnosed and their family members. What causes ALS? What symptoms of ALS can be expected now, and how will they change in the future? What does the progression of ALS look like? Where can I go for the support I need?
Around 30,000 Americans are currently diagnosed with ALS, and almost 5,600 new patients are diagnosed with the illness every year. And though the exact cause is not yet determined, some scientific studies point to complicated risk factors, including a twofold risk of ALS in people who served during the Gulf War.
Even though each person can be affected by ALS in different ways from others, the progression of ALS does seem to follow particular stages. Understanding these stages can help those diagnosed with ALS and those who care for them execute the most appropriate plan of care.
- ALS signs may be detected in only one single area of the body
- Milder symptoms may impact more than this one region
- For some individuals, the first impacted muscles are those used for breathing, swallowing, or speaking
- Weakened grip
- Stumbling when walking
- Slurred speech
- Poor balance
- Indicators of ALS are now more substantial
- Twitching may be noticeable
- Some specific muscles may be paralyzed, while others are weaker or entirely unaffected
- Possible uncontrolled and inappropriate laughing or crying, known as the pseudobulbar affect (PBA)
- Difficulties standing without assistance
- Struggles with eating and swallowing, which can result in choking
- Difficulty breathing, particularly when lying down
- The person with ALS needs complete assistance to care for their needs
- Speaking may no longer be possible
- The person can no longer drink or eat by mouth
- Paralysis in the majority of voluntary muscles
- Breathing is greatly affected, resulting in fatigue, unclear thinking, headaches and susceptibility to pneumonia
- Mobility is substantially impacted
Receiving care from a professional caregiver, like those at Carolina Hearts Home Care, can increase the quality of life for people affected by ALS symptoms. Our caregivers work with families to customize an individualized plan of care, allowing those with ALS to maintain dignity and the greatest level of independence at all times.