Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) In Children


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Does your child suffer from muscle cramps? Does he find it difficult to perform simple tasks like walking and breathing? If yes, then your child could be suffering from a type of motor neuron disease like Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Read our article to know all about ALS here.

What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

ALS is a disease that affects the human nervous system. The condition causes extensive damage to motor neurons and the spinal cord and weakens them considerably. Thus, the disease impacts physical movement as the function of motor neurons is to control muscle functions. ALS, therefore, makes it difficult for affected children to perform simple tasks like breathing, eating and moving.

ALS or the Lou Gehrig’s disease is named after star baseball player Lou Gehrig, who suffered from the condition. It can affect adults as well as children. However, the occurrence of ALS in children is quite rare.

There is no cure for ALS, and it can be fatal. The rate of survival for ALS is three to five years after the diagnosis. Some patients can live up to ten years and in rare cases, patients can survive for decades after the diagnosis [1].

[ Read: Tourette’s Disorder In Children ]

Causes Of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Children:

ALS can be hereditary or familial, or random and sporadic. Only up to 10% of ALS cases are hereditary, and the rest occur due to other causes. Familial ALS occurs due to gene mutations [2].

Sporadic ALS can occur due to the following reasons:

  • Environmental factors
  • Adverse reactions of the immune system
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Abnormal accumulation of proteins in the nerve cells

[ Read: Symptoms Of Neurofibromatosis In Children ]

Signs And Symptoms Of ALS in Children:

The early symptoms of ALS in children are first noticeable in the limbs, and the disease gradually affects other muscle functions [3].

ALS symptoms in children include:

  • Weakness in hand and leg muscles
  • Difficulty in swallowing and breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscles cramps, spasms, and twitches
  • Difficulty in holding the body upright

[ Read: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) In Children ]

Diagnosing ALS in Children:

Diagnosing ALS is often difficult as its symptoms may be similar to other neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may conduct a few tests like:

  • Electromyogram (EMG), which measures electrical activities of muscles during their work and rest stage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which gives a complete picture of the brain and the spine and helps to determine the cause of muscle weakness.
  • A spinal tap, which enables the experts to study the spinal fluid for the diagnosis of the disease.
  • Urine and blood tests, which help eliminate other causes of muscle weakness.
  • Nerve or muscle biopsies, which are conducted to test the nerve or muscle damage. Biopsies are usually the last resort for ALS diagnosis as these are invasive procedures.

Treating Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Children:

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ALS. But drugs and therapies can help patients to manage the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in children well.

  • Certain medicines help control muscle spasms and even help slow the disease from worsening.
  • Physical therapy can help patients to maintain their muscle control as the disease progresses.
  • In some cases, patients may need to use a wheelchair for their movement or a ventilator to help with their breathing.

[ Read: Types Of Neurocutaneous Syndromes In Children ]

Life With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS):

ALS doesn’t affect the patient’s mental capabilities. So, with the right drugs, therapies, and support, children with ALS can continue to live a normal life.

Steps to make life manageable for kids with ALS:

  • Preparing and serving them easy-to-chew food.
  • Practicing speech therapy to help kids speak well after the diagnosis.
  • Conducting regular physical therapy to help kids adjust to life with muscle spasms.
  • Counseling to help them deal with a degenerative disease.
  • Providing emotional support to help them live their lives with as much comfort, happiness, and ease.

Do you know of children with ALS disease? Does your little one suffer from the condition? Please share your experiences with us here. Leave a comment below.

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