Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a condition that causes destruction of the nerve cells that control the body’s voluntary muscles. ALS may be inherited. However, experts are studying other possible causes of ALS, which may include chemical imbalances and genetic mutations. Signs of ALS include limb weakness, slurred speech, muscle cramps, difficulty walking, or difficulty maintaining good posture. This disease normally starts in the feet, hands, or limbs. ALS gradually extends to other body parts and causes disability.
Medications do not reverse ALS, but they can slow the development of symptoms. Baclofen, phenytoin, and antidepressants may be used to help with symptoms. Riluzole (Rilutek) has been shown to slow the progression of ALS in some people. Riluzole works by lowering the amount of glutamate in the brain. Glutamate is a messenger chemical usually found in higher amounts in people with ALS. Side effects of riluzole include constipation and weakness.