Difference between Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease

Difference between Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease
Comparing and Contrasting ALS and Parkinson’s disease
Both Parkinson’s and ALS can cause complications in movement and are famous in advanced neurological diseases. ALS is one of the conditions that gradually degenerate and kills the motor neurons. When one has good health, transmission of communications is made from motor neurons in the brain to specific muscles through the motor neurons in the spinal cord. Since ALS leads to degeneration and killing of cells, the communication is incomplete, and thus the muscles become weak and waste away. With time the coordination between the brain and muscles is lost permanently.
In the early stages of ALS, it may be confused with Parkinson’s disease which is likewise a neurological disease. ALS was discovered for the first time by a Jean- Martin in 1869 but was known internationally from Lou Gehring through his personal diagnosis. Though the public has known Parkinson’s for many years, it was formally determined by the medics in 1817. This essay aims at describing the difference between the two diseases regarding causes, symptoms and the mode of treatment.

Similarities between ALS and Parkinson’s

Both diseases are common, in that, they are very sensitive in stressing misfolded proteins, and reducing reprocessing of toxic proteins which then spread to all neurons and neuroinflammation that is produced by the immune system and consequently intensifies the ailment. Due to their sensitivity, it has triggered an in-depth research on the causes and treatment of the two diseases among the researchers.

Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s and ALS

Parkinson’s starts with tremors then lead to stiffness of muscles, strain in standing and walking. It also leads to fluctuations in speech, slow movements, impaired posture, and balance. One also loses automatic movements and also changes the ability to write.

The signs and symptoms of ALS include; inaudible speech, surplus saliva, breathing difficulties, wasting of muscles, challenges in swallowing, harshness, relaxed muscles, emotional liability, tongue muscle loss and shuddering. In its early stages, the patient experience a lot of difficulties in performing small activities like climbing staircases. The problem may start from one part of the body and spread to the entire body. From the symptoms cited, both diseases affect the movement of a patient and working of muscles.

Causes of ALS and Parkinson’s disease

The primary cause of Parkinson’s disease is the death of nerve cells. Though what causes the death is unknown, some causal factors include; genetic metamorphosis and environmental issues such as being in contact with pollutants, brain Lewy bodies, and alpha-synuclein in the Lewy bodies. (Soldner, Frank, et al 2009)

The primary cause of ALS is unknown, but there is a progressive death of nerve cells which control muscle movement. Some speculations of what causes ALS though they are subject to further research include a study whether the immune system attack body cells leading to the death of nerve cells. Other factors under scrutiny include protein processing in the body and environmental factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment of ALS and Parkinson’s

To date, no accurate assessment can be used to make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease directly. However, in case there is a suspicion of the disease, the skills of a neurologist and geriatrician is required. Out of the three top signs, if two are found to be present, Parkinson’s disease is confirmed. These symptoms include; shaking while at rest, slow movement and stiff muscles. A brain scan will also be done to test for other comparable signs.

Parkinson’s has no specific treatment, but instead, the medication given is to manage the symptoms spreading of the disease. Therapy is also applied on some parts of the body to improve the health of the patient. Treatment methods include; amantadine, dopamine replacement therapy, catechol-o-methyl transferase inhibitors, dopamine agonists and monomine oxidase type B inhibitors. For patients with a positive reaction to Levodopa, but either experiencing challenges in movement or a lot of variations in their levodopa levels can receive treatment through surgery. Therapies that are applied to patients to manage the disease include; physical, speech and language, occupational therapies. A Proper diet that stops unintended loss of weight also assists in the management of Parkinson’s. (Contarino, Fiorella, et al 2007)

It is very hard to detect ALS as there is no universal test of discovering the condition. Elimination method is used in diagnosing ALS, which is, eliminating the presence of any other disease. The diagnostic test includes; blood and urine test, X-rays, MRI, muscle and nerve biopsy, spinal tap and EMG. The neurological test can also assist in diagnosing the condition.

ALS as well doesn’t have a cure. Thus doctors use treatments that can assist the patient to manage its symptoms and also prevent further complications and control advancement of the disease. However, doctors can apply various treatments to control the various symptoms of ASL

Risk factors and problems for Parkinson’s and ALS disease

These are conditions that increase the chances of the diseases developing. The risk factors for Parkinson’s are; being of age 50 years and above, being a man, having a family history of the disease, genetic mutation, head wound, environmental pollutants, various treatment against anxiety and sleep.

Parkinson’s causes problems like; emotional variations, smell disorders, exhaustion, ache, dejection, challenges in thinking, sleeping disorders, swallowing difficulties, sexual dysfunction and bladder problems. (Behari, et al 2001)

Some of the risk factors for ALS include; exposure to lead, military services, and smoking. Research also indicates that familial ALS also causes the genetic mutation to patients. The genetic variation also exposes people to higher chances of getting ALS.

The first complications of ALS are muscle control challenges and speech problems. Other problems eventually emerge which include; breathing problems and organ paralysis. On order to address these problems, patients use air circulation machines to help them breathe efficiently. Other people prefer tracheostomy to help them in breathing. The respiratory problem is the leading cause of death for patients who have ALS. Parkinson’s and ALS Prevalence in the United States. (Chio, Adriano


One million is the estimated number of people who have Parkinson’s and the cost incurred due to the disease is estimated to be over $25 billion every year. There is no enough records on the number of people who have ALS. However, doctors expect the number to range between 12000 and 15000. The average age diagnosed with ALS is between 55 and 75 years, and on the discovery of the symptom, the patient is expected to live for extra 2 to 5 years. The life expectancy may vary from one patient to another. However, young patients can live for a longer period than five years.

Parkinson’s does not lead to the death of those suffering from it. Most of the patients die out of complications brought about by the disease. The severity of the disease is different from one person to another since its impacts are unique to all the patients.

Work Cited

Behari, M., et al. “Risk factors of Parkinson’s disease in Indian patients.” Journal of the neurological sciences 190.1 (2001): 49-55.

Chio, Adriano. “Risk factors in the early diagnosis of ALS: European epidemiological studies.” Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Motor Neuron Disorders 1.sup1 (2000): S13-S18.

Contarino, Maria Fiorella, et al. “Botulinum toxin B ultrasound-guided injections for sialorrhea in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.” Parkinsonism & related disorders 13.5 (2007): 299-303.

Soldner, Frank, et al. “Parkinson’s disease patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells free of viral reprogramming factors.” Cell 136.5 (2009): 964-977.

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