Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons of the central nervous system, which causes weakness, spasticity and muscular atrophy. Early signs most commonly appear in upper and lower limbs, but ALS also frequently causes bulbar symptoms like dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Progression of these symptoms heavily affects the lives of ALS patients, because they can lower their quality of life and life expectancy. Sensory functions usually remain unaffected. We know today that ALS patients' cognitive functions are also affected.
Disease progression slowly leads to voluntary muscle paralysis and consequent inability to move, speak, swallow and breathe. The patients usually die due to respiratory failure.
ALS usually manifests in adults, men are affected somewhat more frequently than women. The cause of the disease remains unknown, except in 5 – 10 % of familial (and therefore genetic) cases. The average life expectancy of ALS patients is around three years. The disease is still incurable. Multidisciplinary treatment is most effective and remains centered on symptom management and the preservation of the quality of life.
Due to the fact that in Slovenia ALS is an almost unknown disease which causes the loss of communication abilities, I wanted to learn more about the ways of helping ALS patients and the logopaedist's role in their treatment. During my search for literature I found out that very little of it exists in Slovenian and especially little in the field of logopaedic treatment. I have therefore decided to analyse and study the information from gathered literature and databases, sum it up, describe the logopaedist's role in working with ALS patients and write a »manual« about the disease.