- What is ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or MND (motor neuron disease)?
- What is the difference between ALS and MS (Multiple Sclerosis)?
- What are the different types of MND (motor neuron disease)?
- What are the symptoms of ALS?
- What are the causes of ALS?
- What are the risk factors and complications of ALS?
- How is ALS diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for ALS?
- Coping with ALS and outlook
What are the causes of ALS?
In about 5-10% of ALS patients, the condition is inherited. The rest of the cases do not have a known cause. There are a number of possible causes being studied, these include:
- Gene mutation – There are a number of different genetic mutations that can lead to ALS that is inherited. These mutations also cause symptoms that are very similar to the forms of ALS that are not inherited. However, not all the gene mutations responsible for ALS have been researched and identified. Bear in mind that only 5% of cases are familial and have been inherited. Those who are the only family member with the disease are known as cases of ALS that are sporadic (i.e. sporadic ALS). Those who have sporadic ALS and those who have familial ALS have very similar symptoms. ALS is only classified as familial if two or more blood relatives have had the condition.
- **My Med Memo: It is important to know the difference between hereditary and genetic. Genetic disorders and conditions are ones that are related, in part, to the individual’s genes and can be caused by environmental factors such as exposure to radiation. Changes in the genes, such as mutations, can result in a number of medical issues. On the other hand, some medical issues are hereditary, this means that they are a result of gene mutations that have been inherited, or rather, passed down from a parent to a child in their genome. It is often the case that a parent has been exposed to high levels of radiation which has caused his genes to mutate, this gene mutation, which is a permanent change to the individual’s DNA sequence, then becomes hereditary as it can be passed down to the child.
- Chemical imbalance – Those who suffer from ALS tend to have levels of glutamate that are higher than they should be. Glutamate is one of the brain’s chemical messengers, or rather, neurotransmitters that send messages within the brain and the nerves throughout the body. It is found in the membranes of nerve cells and enables them to send messages to other nerve cells. Too much of this chemical messenger can be dangerous and toxic for some of the body’s nerve cells as this results in the individual’s nerve cells being overstimulated, leading to inflammation and even cell death.
- Protein mishandling – Proteins are found within nerve cells, if these are mishandled or incorrectly processed, this action may result in abnormal formations of proteins accumulating gradually inside the person’s nerve cells, this can destroy the cells.
- Disorganised immune response – In some cases, the patient’s immune system may begin to attack some of the healthy cells in the body, this often leads death of the body’s nerve cells.