Riluzole is the only therapy to have proven any efficacy. Studied since 1996, its efficacy remains moderate with an increase in survival time counted in months.
Therefore, treatment is essentially symptomatic:
- Physiotherapy and occupational therapy (including specific equipment designed to alleviate the progression of disability)
- Speech therapy for dysarthria (disorders affecting speech execution) and swallowing disorders
- Treating respiratory infections with antibiotics (to avoid aggravating breathing difficulties)
- Drug treatment of cramps and spasticity
- Gastrostomy in the event of severe swallowing difficulties, or use of a nasogastric tube.
- Assisted ventilation in the event of breathing problems due to weakness of the diaphragm. Non-invasive ventilation (using a tightly-fitting mask) relieves symptoms of respiratory impairment and can substantially increase lifespan
Discoveries pertaining to the mechanisms of progression of the disease, along with important technological progress, allow advances in research in spite of everything. While a unique cause seemed at first to be at the origin of the illness; it is now known that ALS results from several interdependent causes which play a role in the destruction of motor neurons. Today, research takes into account environmental and genetic factors and focuses on starting mechanisms as well as the development of new medications and gene therapy.