Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (cont.)
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What medical treatment is available for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?
The remainder of medical treatment is focused on relieving symptoms, maintaining function for as long as possible, and coping with loss of function.
Breathing support becomes necessary when you encounter symptoms of ventilatory failure. Often these result first in disrupted sleep. A patient may become aware of this first by noticing excessive sleepiness, or tiredness, during the day, or by waking up with headaches. Later, patients may become short of breath if they lie down or with the smallest of activities. Non-invasive ventilatory support (Bi-PAP) can be used to support breathing during the night, and also, in more advanced disease, to give the breathing muscles a rest during the day.
Nutritional support and judicious use of non-invasive ventilatory support may extend life by up to 12 months on the average and result in improved quality of life.
Invasive ventilatory support is required when patients can no longer breathe without assistance or if excessive secretions preclude the use of non-invasive ventilatory support.
Only a small minority of patients choose to receive invasive ventilatory support because of its requirements for 24-hour care in the context of a lifestyle that most, but not all, patients do not choose for themselves. However, some patients on long-term permanent ventilatory support have reported meaningful quality to their lives.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/16/2016
Fernando Dangond, MD
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