Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which produce sophisticated images of the brain, have emerged as a valuable tool for the early diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS acts swiftly and progresses rapidly as it breaks down cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle deterioration and eventual death. Its initial signs and symptoms include muscle twitching and cramping, weakness in the limbs, and difficulty speaking or swallowing. A diagnosis is usually made within a year after these appear.
Diagnosis is the best defense
Treatments exist to control and ease its symptoms, prevent possible complications, and make patients’ day-to-day living easier. However, there is no cure yet for ALS.
This leaves early diagnosis as one of the best weapons for fighting the disease. With it, patients can immediately benefit from treatments that manage the progression of ALS. They could also promptly benefit from a support system that extends from medical, nutritional, and therapeutic assistance to emotional and psychological care.
Many people with ALS live two to five years after their first symptoms appear; around 10% of all diagnosed patients live for at least a decade. Early diagnosis and treatment can help them enjoy these years as comfortably and independently as possible.
How can MRIs help?
While a variety of tools can be used to diagnose ALS, research indicates that MRI scans can be particularly valuable in identifying and addressing the disease.
This is because highly detailed MRIs can show “biomarkers”, or characteristic features, of ALS. Seeing and studying these biomarkers serve doctors in several ways:
- They can be used to identify people who at are at risk of developing ALS – even before symptoms appear.
- They can be used as measuring sticks to track ALS progression.
- They can help researchers design clinical trials to determine better treatments, if not a cure.
Larger studies, over longer periods, are needed to establish just how early and effectively MRIs can accomplish these. But there is no longer doubt that they would be indispensable.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and ALS, ALSNewsToday.com
What is ALS? ALS.net