Nearly 15,000 Americans have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a neurodegenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Though the progression of the disease varies, most patients with ALS succumb to respiratory failure within 3-5 years after the onset of symptoms. Sabri Malek, MD, FIPP, and the compassionate team at Hospice and Palliative Care of California specialize in hospice care and offer end-of-life care for those suffering from ALS. To schedule a consultation to learn more about hospice care for ALS, call the office in Pasadena, California, or use the online booking tool.
What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?
ALS is a rare neurological disease that affects the function of nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement such as walking, talking, and writing.
These nerves are called motor neurons, and they deliver messages from the brain to the spinal cord and then on to the muscles to initiate movement and function.
With ALS, the motor neurons in the brain degenerate and die, which stops the messages your muscles need to initiate movement. Over time, muscle inactivity leads to muscle weakness and atrophy (muscle wasting).
ALS is progressive, which means it worsens over time. Though researchers have learned a lot about the physiology of ALS, currently there is no cure or treatment that can slow down or stop the death of the motor neurons.
Though the exact cause of ALS is still under investigation, it’s theorized that the neurological disease may be linked to genetic and environmental factors. Though ALS can develop at any age, most patients develop symptoms between ages 55 and 75. ALS is also more common in men than in women.
What are the symptoms of ALS?
Initially, ALS symptoms are subtle and may go unnoticed. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more obvious.
Early symptoms of ALS include:
- Muscle twitches in the arms, legs, or shoulders
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
Symptoms of ALS generally start in the hands, arms, or legs, and you may experience difficulty turning a key to unlock a door or find yourself more prone to stumbling or tripping when you walk.
As the disease progresses, the affected muscles continue to weaken and atrophy, leading to more serious symptoms such as difficulty moving, eating, and forming words.
Eventually, ALS affects the muscles in your respiratory system, making it more difficult to breathe.
How is ALS treated?
The goal of ALS treatment is to alleviate symptoms and prevent serious health complications. The team at Hospice and Palliative Care of California specializes in ALS supportive care and offers treatments that improve overall quality of life.
Treatment for ALS may include:
- Prescription medication
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Nutritional support
- Respiratory support
The team develops individualized treatment plans based on your wishes.
To schedule a consultation with the compassionate team at Hospice and Palliative Care of California, contact the office by phone or through the online booking tool today.