Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease which features with the progressive degeneration of motor neurons. ALS typically features with muscle weakness and consequent muscle atrophy. The damage is caused by degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. In advanced stage of the disease patients are not capable of controlling voluntary muscles. Bladder, bowel sphincter as well as muscles in charge with eye movement may be spared. The disease eventually leads to problems in walking, talking, breathing etc.
Bulbar ALS may be only introduction to ALS. This form of ALS tipically affects the tongue. Bulbar ALS is also known as bulbar onset of ALS.
Bulbar Onset of ALS
In bulbar ALS patients have problems with the tongue due to specific destruction of motor neurons. Patients suffering from bulbar ALS do not have to face problems with limbs. In bulbar ALS the disease affects facial nerves. These nerves originate from the medulla of the brain. Damage of motor neurons in this area causes specific symptoms of the disease. The progression of symptoms in bulbar ALS may eventually lead to spastic bulbar palsy. In bulbar ALS apart from the tongue the disease also affects the throat, jaw and face in general. Bulbar form of the disease is reported to be introduction to ALS in approximately 25% of all patients.
Symptoms and Signs of Bulbar ALS
The first thing which affects people with bulbar ALS is slurred speech. Patients face difficulty when trying to pronounce certain words, the words become garbled and sometimes patients cannot even utter the desirable words. Since the disease progresses in time further symptoms include difficulty swallowing and chewing. In some patients there is obvious problem with closing of their eyes and mouth. One more symptom is drooling. Tremor and fasciculations of the tongue occur as well. The problem with bulbar form of ALS is that symptoms and signs may progress much faster comparing to limb onset of ALS.
There are serious complications related to bulbar ALS. The first one is potential choking caused by swallowing problems. Furthermore, these patients are susceptible to certain infections such as pneumonia. Breathing difficulties are most noticeable at night. Breathing difficulties consequently lead to headache, nocturnal dyspnea, ortopnea, nightmares and sleepiness during day.
The symptoms are initially very subtle. However, if one experiences any of the previously mentioned symptoms including spasticity and weakness while talking or chewing food or has strange feeling in the tongue he/ she is supposed to report this to the doctor. It does not mean the one is suffering from ALS. This is supposed to be done to identify the underlying cause of the problem and to treat potential illness on time.