In 2014, the ice bucket challenge was everywhere. People who did not know what ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease was, were dumping containers of ice water on each other and filming it.
For those that did not know why they were doing what they were doing or even what this disease is, ALS is a neurological disorder that eventually renders patients unable to move. It affects all muscles in the body, including the heart and the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for inhaling and exhaling. It is rare, but if you have been diagnosed with ALS, there is much that neurologists can do to help you through the stages of this disease.
Neurological Services and Treatment for ALS
Diagnosis of this disease is not possible without a neurologist and several tests. Often, a spinal tap, an MRI of the brain and spinal cord, and muscle responsiveness tests confirm or deny the presence of Lou Gehrig's disease. All of these tests can be performed in a neuroscience clinic, with results in forty-eight hours or less. The presence of dead neurons in the spinal fluid and brain, as well as "white matter" (areas of the brain where cells have died and been replaced with myelin), are the two most common test results that confirm ALS.
The disease is still fatal. The ice bucket challenge was meant to raise awareness and funds for research to find a cure, or at least treatments, which could extend people's lives. Currently, the only treatments available are:
- Physical therapy
- Riluzole, a drug that slows the progression of the disease
- Other drugs that relieve the symptoms of ALS, such as diazepam for seizures
- Clinical interventions as the disease progresses, e.g., tracheotomies and respirators
The disease is different for every person, allowing some to live two more years, like Lou Gehrig, or up to ten years. MRI's are a very important part of the neurological services provided to ALS patients because they help monitor the progression of the disease and allow each patient and estimate of how much time he or she has. "Go here for information on neurological services and treatment)
Asking Your Neurologist for ALS Drug Trial Information
With several ALS research companies working on new medicines, it is possible that a new drug could reach the market in time to help you. You may even decide to participate in the drug trials to help facilitate these drugs along for others with the disease. Ask your neurologist how you can be a part of the trials and what, if any, information he or she has on current ALS medical research. In the meantime, you can watch thousands of people dump ice water on each other to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig's disease.