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August 18th, 2010
08:28 AM ET

Is there a cure or treatment for ALS?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Sandee Hengst of Las Vegas, Nevada
: Is there a cure or treatment for ALS?

Expert answer: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that causes muscle weakness. It is incurable and eventually fatal. It occurs at a very low incidence, about one to three cases per 100,000 people. While it is seen among young adults, it is most common among people in their 60s and 70s. Ten percent of cases that occur are familial or inherited. The cause is unknown in 90 percent.

The disease is primarily a deterioration of the upper motor neurons of the brain and the lower motor neurons of the spine. Motor neurons are the nerves that give out the signals for muscles to contract and move. ALS most commonly presents with weakness of an arm or leg. The examiner may find other symptoms such as exaggerated deep tendon reflexes (hyper-reflexia), and spasms. There is also eventual loss of muscle mass (atrophy) and small muscle twitching (fasciculations).

When a patient's initial symptoms are hand weakness, they may notice that they are dropping things and have difficulty performing fine motor tasks such as pinching, writing, typing, managing buttons or zippers and picking up small objects such as coins and paper clips. Patients with shoulder weakness may have trouble using their arms above the head in activities such as combing their hair or lifting things.

Patients with lower extremity weakness most often notice a foot drop. They have a "slapping" gait and are prone to trip. Some with weakness in the thigh and hip will have difficulty climbing stairs and rising from chairs.

About one in five are initially diagnosed because they have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or slurred speech (dysarthria). These symptoms are due to weakness of muscles in throat and mouth.

As the disease progresses, weakness spreads to other parts of the body. Difficulty breathing can lead to the need for mechanical ventilation. Infection, especially pneumonia, is a common problem with end stage ALS. The median survival from the time of diagnosis is three to five years. About 10 percent of ALS patients can live 10 years or more. Survival beyond 20 years is rare.

A number of drugs have been tested for this disease and several are in clinical trials. Neurology departments at medical schools are the best place to find these trials. Riluzole is the only drug that has impact on survival. It does slow ALS progression but only marginally. Those who are most likely to benefit from riluzole have had symptoms for less than five years and have very little respiratory impairment.

There are a number of diseases that can be mistaken for ALS. Among them are cervical disk disease (cervical radiculomyelopathy) post-polio syndrome, inflammatory myopathy, myasthenia gravis and hyperthyroidism. Physicians considering the diagnosis of ALS work hard to exclude those diseases that have very effective treatments.


soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. member221

    I was diagnosed of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells, I was given medications to slow down the progress of the disease, after some months my conditioned worsened and i lost ability to go about my daily activities and i had to quit my job, my legs and arms were terribly weakened, i resorted to a wheelchair (Perbombil C300). This was till my husband's friend introduced my husband to a herbal clinic in South Africa who sell herbal medicines to cure all kind of diseases including ALS, we contacted the herbal clinic via their email and purchased the ALS herbal remedy, we received the herbal medicine via courier within 7 days and commenced usage as prescribed, its totally unexplainable how all the symptoms gradually dissapeared, my speech has greatly improved and am able to walk a distance now with no help, contact this herbal clinic via their email drlusandaherbal(at)drlusandaherbal(dot)com Or website www(dot)drlusandaherbal(dot)com

    November 9, 2016 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ryan Dolphin

      I have something to share with you!!!, I want to say that i am so happy today because I am free from the disease/virus of Herpes, My name is Ryan Dolphin from USA , I have been having Herpes since the past two years now, and I have pass through many different processes in getting cured from the diseases virus of HSV2 but nothing was working out, a friend of mine on Facebook introduce me to god Baalam, that he is the only one who can helped me get cured from my Herpes and any other diseases i may have, so I contacted him and followed his instructions, my life is now transformed and everything is fine and Okay with me, till now I have been going to check up and its now going to four months now I am still negative. All thanks Goes to god baalam and My Friend for what he has done for me... if you are sick i will advice you to contact god Baalam now by emailing him on his private mail at: g o d b a a l a a m t e m p l e @ g m a i l. c o m HE IS THERE WAITING TO HELP ANYONE IN NEED OF HIS HELP ANY TIME ANY DAY if you want to be cured of CANCER, ASTHMA, FIBROID, STROKE, IMPOTENCE, BARENESS/INFERTILITY contact him

      May 10, 2017 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
  2. scoban

    ALL THANKS TO DR WILLIAMS FOR GETTING MY WIFE OUT OF FIBROID WITH HIS HERB One of the greatest moments in this world is when you see your own wife put to bed, this awesome moments makes you a man and not just a man a real man. My wife suffered from Fibroid which made her unable to get pregnant and give us a child for almost 18 years with multiple surgeries done and none seemed to help the situation. I almost gave up but due to the love i had for her because i married her a virgin i had to find a way to help her. I told a member of my church who recommended Dr. williams to me, i contacted him and he sent me a medicine and this medicine shrinked it naturally in a weeks it was like magic but it's science. I am happy writing this because he delivered a baby girl. Do not loose hope too soon contact him on drwilliams098765@gmail.com and i am confident she will help you too.

    November 14, 2016 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Marian

    My husband of 54 years of age got cured out from ALS diseases, He was diagnosis at the age of 48 and he have been on a sick bed for some years, he recently got cured with natural treatment from Dr Abu the traditional herbalist healer. I'm so much happy that my husband life is back again after many years he suffered from ALS . Everyone diagnosis with ALS disease should know about this natural treatment, Dr Abu email is been attached to my post reach him for help. drabumerecurecentre@gmail.com ‎ his contact number +2349075383142‎

    January 5, 2017 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. karen

    I got married to my lovely husband for the past 7 years without conceiving and fibroid was the issue, i took different prescribed medication but could not cure it but my husband was so confident in me and kept encouraging me that one day someone would call me mother, we did not rest searching for solution from different Doctors all they could say was surgery and i was afraid of that then a friend in my office introduced me to Dr. Davismartin who sent his product to me which i took and it really worked perfectly, and my Dr. confirm me pregnant after 2 months of taken his product. i gave birth to a BABY GIRL February this year and i will named her TESTIMONY. contact him also at drdavismartin62@gmail.com.

    January 11, 2017 at 05:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Thomas

    (MUST READ)
    I was diagnosed of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) 2013 in Parkland hospital, Dillas, i was given medications to help my symptoms. In August 2014 my symotoms worsened, with no hope of a cure from the hospital i looked out for an alternative treatment. I read on a website about NewLife Herbal Clinic and their successful herbal treatment for ALS, i immediately contacted them via their website and purchased the ALS herbal remedy. I used the herbal remedy for 9 weeks, all my symptoms including difficulty walking, weakness in legs and arm, slured speech etc miraculously dissapeared, my speech is understandable now, its unbelievable, visit www. newlifeherbalclinic. weebly. com or email newlifeherbalclinic@ gmail. com. I had stopped working since i was diagnosed of ALS, i resumed working in 2016, I have control of my body ones again!

    January 22, 2017 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. member221

    I was diagnosed of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells, I was given medications to slow down the progress of the disease, after some months my conditioned worsened and i lost ability to go about my daily activities and i had to quit my job, my legs and arms were terribly weakened, i resorted to a wheelchair (Perbombil C300). This was till my husband's friend introduced my husband to a herbal clinic in South Africa who sell herbal medicines to cure all kind of diseases including ALS, we contacted the herbal clinic via their email and purchased the ALS herbal remedy, we received the herbal medicine via courier within 7 days and commenced usage as prescribed, its totally unexplainable how all the symptoms gradually dissapeared, my speech has greatly improved and am able to walk a distance now with no help, contact this herbal clinic via their email healthherbalclinic@gmailcom

    January 23, 2017 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Joan

    My husband was misdiagnosed with PD in 2000. Very rapid deterioration and many queries eventually led to MSA (Multiple System Atrophy) diagnosis. A horrible, horrible condition robbing people of independence, dignity, movement, speech, continence, ability to swallow and breathe.we didn't know what to do we tried everything possible medically, we were waiting for his death then one day our daughter got back from work with the email of a herbal Clinic saying her friend from work told her about a testimony on how Health Herbal Clinic cured her mom from PD and it truely worked, we were desperate and sceptical but my daughter told me we got nothing to loose and i decided to give it a try. 4 weeks after he started taking the herb he regained his speech and today my husband is fully rocovered from this deadly disease called PD, this isn't a BS it is real you can also contact health herbal clinic on healthherbalclinic@gmailCOM

    January 28, 2017 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Nasty

    I'm a woman who doesn't sleep around it was a very big surprised that my doctor told me have diagnosis with hpv, and it has be killing me I suffered a lot and the symptoms was too bad which lids smells and warts in my private part my husband divorced me because of my situation I has take lot and different treatments from the hospital nothing comes out good. every patients suffering from any of this disease herpes or hpv don't waist money in any other recommendation because it won't cure you the only solution to these virus is to seek help from Dr abu cure centre he is the herbalist Dr that give hundred parent treatment because i only got treated for one week and i was totally healed out from human papillomavirus. you are to contact him through his email drabumerecurecentre@gmail.com i also want everyone to get ride of these virus out from there body because it so embarrassing.

    My regards to everyone.
    Nasty

    February 17, 2017 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. lati

    taking herbal treatment is the best to get rid of hpv as soon as i feel the symptoms of hpv is appearing, i took the healing process by contacting dr abu for natural treatment it works wonders, amazingly ever since I had the herbal treatment i have not feel this horrible disease anymore and my doc told me the virus is gone, i am glad i finally got cured out from this horrible disease. every hpv or herpes patients should also get in touch with dr abu.

    May 16, 2017 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.