Essay on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Case Study

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Normal Anatomy and Physiology of Motor Function
The two components of the central nervous system (CNS) are the brain and the spinal cord. Communication between the brain and the spinal cord happens through motor neurons, which are nerve cells that enable motor movement. Each motor neuron is made up of a cell body, which holds all the cell components, dendrites which send information it receives to the cell body, and an axon which sends nerve impulses to the muscle (Porth & Matfin, 2009). As electrical impulses are sent through the motor neuron, it stimulates the muscle fibers in the body to move. This is the process in which motor function happens. Therefore, the basic abilities to breathe, speak, swallow, walk and button a shirt are
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The manifestations of ALS are caused by the location of motor neuron death. When upper motor neurons die, the symptoms include problems controlling fine movements, spasms, dysphagia, dysphonia and dysarthria (Porth & Matfin, 2009). “Manifestations of lower motor neuron destruction include fasciculations, weakness, muscle atrophy, and hyporeflexia” (Porth & Matfin, 2009, p. 1284). Patients with early signs of ALS usually complain of feeling weak on one side, which is due to the slowing of electrical impulses to that group of muscles (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2010). Since the impulses are slowed, they are not receiving adequate electrical stimulation to move and the person feels weak. As the disease progresses, all the motor neurons die and are not regenerated so, the patient is left paralyzed, losing the ability to speak, swallow and breathe (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2010).
A distinctive characteristic of ALS is that although the motor neurons die, the brain, cognitive functions and sensory neurons stay intact (Porth & Matfin, 2009). This makes the disease especially devastating because patients become trapped inside their dying body, with a fully alert mind, but are unable to move. It is not known what causes the exact death of the motor neurons in the body, but “five percent to 10% of cases are familial; the others are believed to be sporadic” (Porth & Matfin, 2009, p.
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