ALS–a Definition and Treatment

One of the most serious debilitating disease is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It is at times  called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player that suffered from it. Also called ”classical motor neuron disease” it is a rapidly progressive and usually fatal neurological disease that affects  the nerve cells (neurons) that are responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

It is estimated that Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) causes nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population annually.

This means that approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year with the incidence of ALS being two per 100,000 people. It is therefore, estimated that as many as 30,000 in the USA have the disease at any given time.
Although on record, the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis the disease is variable which means that many people live with quality for five years and over. With more than half of all patients living more than 3 years following initial diagnosis.
Additional statistics show that about 20% of people with ALS live 5 years or more with up to ten percent surviving more than 10 years and about five percent will live 20 years. It has been noted that some patients with ALS show that the disease has stopped progressing and additionally, a small number of people show a reversal of symptoms.

In ALS,  the upper  as well as   lower motor neurons degenerate, which then cease to send messages to muscles. Since they are unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken and waste away. Eventually the brain loses its ability to control movement.  The first symptoms are usually  noticed in the limbs of the body or in the swallowing muscles.  This muscle weakness and atrophy occurs on both sides of the body.

Individuals with ALS eventually lose the ability to hold the body in an upright position. Muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall will then fail to function properly and breathing will become impossible without artificial ventilation.

The disease does not affect the person’s senses of sight, smell, taste or hearing or even recognizing touch. The mind and personality of a person is not usually affected by ALS but there may be some cognitive difficulties in expressing oneself or decision making and memory. The cause of ALS is not known and scientists don’t  know why ALS strikes some people and not others.

ALS has no known cure but the drug Riluzole— approved by the Food and Drug Administration –prolongs life by 2-3 months however it does not relieve symptoms.  There are other treatments  designed to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with ALS  and there are drugs  available to help individuals with depression, panic attacks, and pain .

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may help to prevent joint immobility and slow muscle weakness and atrophy.

 ALS patients and family looking for the most effective physical therapy solutions should be using the TUTOR system. The HANDTUTOR, ARMTUTOR, LEGTUTOR and 3DTUTOR are ergonomic wearable devices together with powerful dedicated rehabilitation software. The TUTORs consist of motivating and challenging games that allow the patient to practice isolated and/or interjoint coordination exercises which may help to slow down the symptoms of ALS. The dedicated  software allows the therapist to fully customize the exercises to the patient’s ability and progress. In addition the system optimizes the patient’s motor, sensory and cognitive performance and allows the patient to better perform everyday functional tasks and to improve their quality of life.

Currently in use in leading U.S. and European hospitals and clinics the TUTORs are fully certified by the FDA and CE. They can be used at home through telerehabilitation and are available for adults as well as children from the age of 5 and up.

See WWW.MEDITOUCH.CO.IL for further information.

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