Because there is no known cure for ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease, the course of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cannot be reversed. ALS treatments mainly involve efforts to slow the progression of ALS symptoms and provide patients with more comfort and independence.
Riluzole (Rilutek) is the first and only medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for slowing the degeneration caused by ALS. Riluzole appears to slow the ALS's progression in some people, perhaps by reducing levels of glutamate - a chemical messenger in the brain.
To help ease the symptoms of ALS, doctors at the ALS Center may also prescribe medications to provide relief from:
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive salivation
- Excessive phlegm
A variety of medical professionals may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of ALS. Medical staff that may be included in an ALS patient's treatment team include:
- A neurologist- the main physician responsible for and with expertise in the diagnosis, evaluation and management of the condition of ALS patients. He or she will prescribe or oversee the use of ALS diagnostic technology described above.
- Physical therapists- he or she can recommend low-impact exercises to maintain your muscle strength and range of motion as long as possible, helping you preserve a sense of independence.
- An occupational therapist- he or she may be provided to aid patients in getting familiar with devices that will aid mobility and physical function.
- A speech therapist- he or she is involved with ALS patients who experience difficulty speaking as a result of the disease.
- An ALS Nurse- in collaboration with the treating ALS neurologist, he or she specializes in managing the multidisciplinary efforts involved in the treatment of ALS.
- A dietician- he or she often works with the ALS speech pathologist to coordinate optimal hydration and nutrition and educates patients on the changes in nutrition required or seen with ALS.
- A respiratory therapist- he or she specializes in the respiratory effects of ALS and educating ALS patients and families on these changes. The respiratory therapist will evaluate breathing and measure respiratory muscle strength in the patient. Respiratory therapists also provide expertise in the necessary equipment required to alleviate symptoms from the decline in respiratory strength often seen from ALS.
- A social worker- he or she may be included in an ALS treatment team to provide emotional support to ALS patient and families. Social workers will also put patients in contact with relevant community resources and will assist patients with Social Security Disability and Medicare benefit. A social worker provides emotional support to patients and families, seeks out and mobilizes community resources, and assists in the process of obtaining Social Security Disability/Medicare benefits.
- Other team members and services that may be included in an ALS patient treatment team include hospice services, orthotists, and additional assistive technologies.
Did You Know?
The Emory ALS Center provides multidisciplinary care for patients and families with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and related disorders.
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