Treatment of ALS
Medications, speech therapy, and physical therapy are different aspects of ALS treatment, which is designed to relieve symptoms, improve the quality of life, and keep people as mobile and comfortable as possible. Although it is not a cure, riluzole was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment.
An Introduction to ALS Treatment
Scientists have not found a cure for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug treatment for ALS, which is called riluzole.
Riluzole is believed to:
- Reduce damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate
- Prolong survival by several months (mainly in those with difficulty swallowing)
- Extend the time before a person needs ventilation support.
Riluzole does not reverse the damage that has already occurred to the motor neurons, and people taking it must be monitored for liver damage and other possible side effects.
Team Effort for Treatment of ALS
Other ALS treatments are designed to relieve symptoms and improve a person's quality of life. Multidisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals are available to provide supportive care, including:
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapists
- Social workers
- Home care and hospice nurses.
These teams can design an individualized ALS treatment plan of medical and physical therapy, and provide special equipment aimed at keeping people as mobile and comfortable as possible.
Medications Used in ALS Treatment
Physicians can prescribe medications for the treatment of ALS symptoms. These medications help to:
- Reduce fatigue
- Ease muscle cramps
- Control spasticity
- Reduce excess saliva and phlegm.
Medications are also available to help people with pain, depression, sleep disturbances, and constipation. Pharmacists can give advice on the proper use of medications and monitor a person's prescriptions to avoid the risk of drug interactions.