Medications and Treatments for ALS Tips

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My father who has ALS has stopped eating large meals. What do I do?

Diet Or Nutritional Therapy

As the muscles for chewing and swallowing weaken, ALS patients will suffer from an increasing difficulty to eat, leading to reduced nutritional intake. A reduced appetite can also be a side effect of certain medications someone might be taking. People with ALS also mention how fatigued they feel when eating large meals or hard to chew food, and are unable to finish it.

These situations can all lead to poor nutrition and weight loss. Diet or nutritional therapy can help prevent poor nutrition by providing menus or suggestions for meals. A dietitian or nutritional therapist can in addition give suggestions for increasing caloric intake and prevent fatigue while eating. As the person loses the ability to chew and swallow, a dietitian or nutritional therapist can be consulted about setting up the procedure to put in a feeding tube.

I am noticing problems with my speech. Can a speech pathologist help me?

Speech Pathology

Even if there is no indication of spastic bulbar palsy symptoms initially, there will be changes of the face and mouth eventually. As problems with speaking, eating, and swallowing develop, a speech pathologist can suggest ways to prevent aspiration. There are various methods and equipment a speech pathologist can give people with ALS to help with communication.

Is there a cure for ALS?

Medication and Treatment For ALS: An Overview

There is no known cure for ALS. The medication and treatment prescribed for this disease centers on prolonging the duration and quality of life for ALS patients. There are numerous drugs and supportive therapies such as speech pathology or occupational therapy, prescribed to help ALS patients cope with the different symptoms they will experience. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug called Rilutek has been shown to prolong the survival rate by an average of three months. Rilutek is used to slow down the loss of muscle strength, and is more effective in bulbar-onset ALS.

I have heard I will develop problems with breathing. Which type of doctor do I see?

Pulmonary Therapy

The muscles that control breathing are innervated by motor nerves and when they cease to function, there will be problems controlling breathing. A pulmonologist will be able to evaluate the breathing capacity of a person with ALS and suggest ways to help with breathing such as a tracheotomy and/or respirator. ALS sufferers with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma will benefit tremendously by seeing a pulmonologist.

I have just been diagnosed with ALS and need to talk to someone. Who do I talk to?

Social Work/Psychology

Since ALS is a terminal disease, if you have ALS, seeing a social worker or psychologist is extremely beneficial. A psychologist or social worker can provide support to the patient as well as their caregiver and family members. A social worker or psychologist can also help people with ALS cope with the feelings of shock, anger, and sadness they may experience, especially if there are signs of depression. Social workers can help the patient and family members decide on hospice care during the end stages of the disease.

Is Rilutek the only medication used in ALS?

Medication Used In Lou Gehrig's Disease

Since the skeletal muscles are responsible for so many areas of the body, problems within the muscles will produce a long list of symptoms. Medication for ALS symptom relief is varied as well. Many doctors will try to find one drug such as Amitriptyline, which treats an assortment of symptoms. The drugs used to treat symptoms associated with ALS include:

Baclofen (Lioresal) – Spasticity and muscle cramps

NSAIDS/Ibuprofen – Pain

Lorazepam (Ativan) – Severe fasciculations and anxiety

Amitriptyline – Sedation at night, pain relief, depression, and drooling

Oxybutynin – Urinary urgency

Omeprazole – Acid reflux

Prochlorperazine – Nausea

Diphenhydramine – Nasal congestion

I am a caregiver who needs extra help taking care of my loved one. Should I consider Home Health Care nursing?

Home Health Care

ALS is a disease in which patients will have an average survival rate of two to five years after being diagnosed. As the disease progresses, it removes the person's ability to carry out daily activities and care for themselves. Home Health Care will be able to provide a nurse or aide who will come into the home and evaluate if the needs of the person with ALS are being met. This is especially useful for patients who are already wheelchair bound or their caregivers, who might need a break.

Is occupational therapy necessary when diagnosed with ALS?

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a necessary supportive treatment to help people function normally, and as independently, as possible. This type of therapy is able to teach people with ALS, new skills to help them take care of themselves on a daily basis. For example, teaching the skill of how to dress alone with weakness in the hand. Occupational therapy is also helpful when the person has to be fitted for wheelchair, or need new techniques to help them conserve their energy and prevent fatigue.

Will I benefit from physical therapy as an ALS patient?

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapy is an essential part of supportive therapy for ALS sufferers. Due to increasing muscle weakness, physical therapy should begin as soon as a diagnosis of ALS is reached. There are several exercises, which can help with muscle strength and movement. A physical therapist can also recommend exercises and stretching techniques to decrease muscle cramps and stiffness. This form of supportive therapy is also consulted when braces or orthotics are needed for stability.

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Jerry Mayo