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How is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) treated?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cannot currently be cured. There are several types of treatment available for people with the disease. The primary treatment is a drug, riluzole, which can slow the progress of ALS and increase lifespan. Other medications may be prescribed to treat the specific symptoms of ALS that emerge. Therapy may prove useful in helping people with ALS to continue moving for as long as possible. Finally, medical technology such as feeding tubes and breathing machines can be used to keep someone with ALS alive after they can no longer control these functions on their own.

Many drugs for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) are being tested in clinical trials, but only one drug, riluzole (Rilutek), is currently FDA approved for the treatment of ALS. Riluzole has been shown to slow the progression of the disease and prolong survival by several months. Other medications can alleviate symptoms such as muscle cramps, stiffness and excess saliva. In the later stages of the disease people may require the placement of a feeding tube or respirator, and may need palliative care.

Physical, occupational, speech and nutrition therapy all help people with ALS maintain function as long as possible. Adaptive and augmentative equipment can help people continue to communicate effectively, remain mobile and ensure their safety.

Unfortunately, at the present time, there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, but that is not to say that there is nothing to offer individuals who have this diagnosis. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help. The most effective approach for ALS has been the team concept: a neurologist; physiatrist; pulmonologist (to address respiratory issues); physical, occupational and speech therapists; psychologist and social worker. Pharmacologic options (medicines), in terms of disease treatment, are quite limited.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.