2 posts tagged “ALS symptoms”

Circulation issues & ALS

Posted 3 months ago by

Do you have circulation issues like swelling (also called edema) or a burning (or cold) sensation in your legs and feet? How do you cope? From compression stockings to therapeutic massage and limiting salt intake, pALS are managing their circulation issues in some creative ways.

Why do some people with ALS experience poor circulation?

For many people living with ALS walking becomes difficult as their condition progresses. Lack of physical activity can make it difficult for the blood to reach the legs, feet, arms and hands, leading to poor circulation and swelling (some PatientsLikeMe members report swelling in their feet and hands). Swelling is also caused by dehydration, inflammation or consuming too much salt.

Some symptoms include:

  • Swelling or puffiness in legs, arms, hands or feet
  • Stretched and/or shiny skin
  • Skin that stays depressed after being pressed
How pALS manage:

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe a diuretic (or water pills, to help rid your body of excess salt and water) but diuretics should be used with caution since many pALS are already dehydrated. Here are a few things some pALS are trying:

  • Electric blankets or hand warmers like the ones used for hunting
  • Ted Hose or compression socks (if you’re still walking) to prevent blood clots
  • Leg massage devices like this one or this one to get the blood flowing
  • Kathy Peters, Muscular Dystrophy Associations’s ALS Health Care Services Coordinator, warns that an ordinary reclining armchair can actually lead to more swelling. Instead, she recommends raising your feet (with a tilt-in-space wheelchair and hospital bed) so they’re on the same level or higher than your heart.
  • For more tips, check out this blog post about managing swollen feet.

How do you manage circulation issues? Any questions, thoughts or tips you’d like to share with the community? Join PatientsLikeMe and add your voice to the conversation.

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Life with ALS: What We’ve Learned

Posted December 20th, 2011 by

Yesterday, our interview with ALS blogger and three-star member Rachael gave you a glimpse into what it’s like to live with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  Today we take a closer look using the data and experiences shared by our 4,844 ALS members, who comprise the world’s largest online ALS population.

Some of the Most Commonly Reported ALS Symptoms (and Their Reported Severity) at PatientsLikeMe

ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a degenerative disorder affecting upper motor neurons in the brain and lower motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord. Some of the most debilitating symptoms include progressive weakness, atrophy, fasciculations (muscle twitches), dysphagia (swallowing difficulty), and eventual paralysis of all respiratory function.  Other commonly reported symptoms are shown in the chart above.

Given the severity of ALS symptoms, the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years from diagnosis, according the ALS Association (ALSA).  However, ALSA states, “The disease is variable, and many people live with quality for five years and more.”  Rachael, who is six years post-diagnosis and living a busy, active life thanks to assistive technology, is a perfect example.

What does assistive technology entail?  For many ALS patients like Rachael, this involves the use of medical equipment to aid basic functions such as:

How well do these interventions work?  Click on each treatment name above to read evaluations from hundreds of patients about the effectiveness, side effects, cost and more.  In addition to these various types of equipment, one of the most commonly reported treatments for ALS is Rilutek, the first prescription drug to be approved specifically for ALS.  While it does not cure ALS or improve symptoms, it may extend survival or the time to tracheostomy (the creation of an artificial airway in the throat), which occurs when a patient is no longer able to breathe on his or her own.  Currently, we have 1,124 patients taking Rilutek, with 293 treatment evaluations submitted.

Some of the Side Effects Our Patients Report for the ALS Drug Rilutek

What do patients say about this drug?  We leave you with a sampling of comments that patients have shared on their treatment evaluations.

  • “One day I was having tremors in my left arm. I took the Riluzole [generic name for Rilutek] and one hour later the tremors stopped. I know it is helping.”
  • “I made a decision that 10% increased lifespan from onset was not worth being very sleepy all the time. I would rather require far less sleep each day than live slightly longer.”
  • “It is a slight pain because you’re not supposed to eat for two hours before or an hour after, and I’m trying to keep weight on.”
  • “I think this extended my time by at least six months. I started taking it about two months after my diagnosis. I’ve been told it’s more effective when you start taking it early like I did.”
  • “Quit taking due to elevated enzymes in my liver. Drug caused increased hunger, protein cravings, and very sluggish feeling.”
  • “Currently purchasing under Medicare as a tier 4 drug. When in the doughnut hole, the cost is approximately $985 per month.”
  • “We can never know if Rilutek does any of us any good. If it doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, I believe it is better to take it than not to.”

This is just a sample of the wealth of experience and data to be found at PatientsLikeMe.  Dive in today to learn more about ALS.