Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Case Study

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Case Study: A thirty six year old male has developed severe muscle weakness throughout the body. The condition began fifteen months ago with a left foot drop and within a year, he described difficulty with speech and swallowing, muscle twitching and cramping, and muscular atrophy throughout the upper and lower limbs. Within the last two months, his breathing has become more difficult, and there has been a noticeable difference in his voice. Prior to the fifteen months, he presented little to no symptoms. The patient, a medical doctor, has a wife and two young children.

What began as seemingly innocent muscle weakness and cramping has lead to this patient’s fatal diagnosis. He is one of 2.5 per 100,000 people worldwide who have been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and will mostly likely die of respiratory failure within 2 to 3 years. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS is a is a highly degenerative disease involving the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement. The disease is sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s after the New York Yankees baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939.

The disease causes degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. These neurons connect the brainstem and spinal cord to muscle fibers and send electric impulses to the muscles. Without proper communication, the muscles begin to weaken and atrophy. Individuals with ALS will lose their ability for voluntary muscular control. Usually, bladder and bowel control are spared, though this is not always the case. Cognitive functions and sensory nerves are also typically spared, but the affected individuals may present symptoms of dementia.

Initial symptoms generally include muscular weak...

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...ological degeneration could happen in such a swift manner. I only hope that a better understanding of the causes of ALS can help find a cure.

Works Cited

ALSInfo: Lou Gherig’s Disease (ALS) [Internet]. 2011. Sanofi aventis US LLC; [last updated 2011 November 8; cited 2012 March 22]. Available from

Hayes SM. 2001. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Update on Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, and Management. In: Riolo L, editor. Topics in Physical Therapy: Neurology. American Physical Therapy Association. Lesson 9.

McKinley MP, O'Loughlin VD. 2006. Nervous System Disorders. In: Wheatley CH, editor. Human anatomy. 2nd ed. Boston (MA): McGraw-Hill Higher Education. p 431.

Umphred DA. 2001. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In: Allen A, Zipperlen R, editors. Neurological rehabilitation. 4th ed. St. Louis (MO): Mosby. p 363-385.
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