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Monday Morning Clinic offers the best information for living with ALS

Every Monday morning, neurology professionals at The University of Kansas Health System meet with patients and their families. The team includes a social worker, dietitian, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and neurologists who work together with you to develop the best care plan for living with ALS. While your health is a main focus, the quality of your – and your family’s life – is also important. Your care team is committed to looking out for you and your family.

ALS

A disease that plays no favorites

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. When nerve cells die, the brain loses the ability to stimulate and control muscle movement. ALS is progressive – beginning with a few barely perceptible symptoms and ending when patients have lost the ability to move and breathe. Commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, more than 5,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States every year.

ALS typically strikes people from 40 to 70 years of age. The symptoms, life expectancy and treatments of ALS will vary from person to person. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness in the hands, arms or legs
  • Weakness in the muscles that control speaking, swallowing or breathing
  • Twitching and cramping of muscles, particularly those in the hands and feet
  • Thick speech and difficulty projecting the voice
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing and swallowing in more advanced cases

ALS can strike anyone at any time and does not discriminate by gender, race or economics. Currently, there is no cure for ALS. When faced with the diagnosis of ALS, you want the best professionals caring for you and your family. The University of Kansas Health System has the area’s only program with physicians who are specially trained to treat ALS. Patients come here from a seven-state region – often at the suggestion of a doctor at another hospital.

Tools to determine the problem

ALS can be difficult to diagnose. And while there is no one test that can tell if a person has ALS, there are several tools and procedures doctors will use to give them the best chance for an accurate diagnosis. These include:

  • Full neurological examination
  • Electromyography, or EMG, which records the electrical activity of the muscles
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI
  • Muscle or nerve biopsy

What can be done

Because there is no cure yet for ALS, maintaining muscle function for as long as possible is a goal. While the life expectancy for those with ALS ranges from two to five years after diagnosis, some patients live longer and have a higher quality of life. Certain medications and physical therapy can slow progression of the disease.

Physicians at The University of Kansas Health System lead research to determine the causes of ALS and, ultimately, to find a cure for this devastating disease. We encourage patients who wish to be involved in clinical trials to talk to their care team about participating in studies that may one day unlock the mystery that surrounds ALS.