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Semin Neurol. 1998;18(1):27-39.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine/Neurology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio 78284-7883, USA.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease with evidence of both anterior horn cell and corticospinal tract degeneration. The incidence of ALS is 1 to 2.5 cases per 100,000 population and the disease occurs primarily in adult life. The etiology of sporadic ALS remains unknown, although 5 to 10% of cases are familial. The diagnosis of ALS requires the presence of both upper and lower motor neuron findings and progressive motor dysfunction. Several theories regarding the pathogenesis of ALS have emerged including glutamate excitotoxicity, free radical oxidative stress, neurofilament accumulation, and autoimmunity. Clinical trials involving antiglutamate agents, antioxidants, immunosuppressants, and growth factors have shown no substantial benefit in slowing progression, with death usually occurring 2 to 5 years following the onset of symptoms. The management of ALS patients requires a multidisciplinary team that can provide the numerous medical and physical interventions necessary to treat weakness and fatigue, bulbar dysfunction, spasticity and pain, depression, and respiratory failure.

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